Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reviews and thoughts on free books

There are two things in life that I adore.

1. Free things

2. books

So free books should be an absolute no brainer. Well…not so much it seems. I looked back of this list of book reviews and the previous lists and led me to a realization that saddens me. When I first got my new Kindle I was pleased by the prospect of being able to download the free books to help me find new authors I enjoy reading. However of the twenty books I’ve read that were free reads, I’ve found two authors whose works I would be willing to pay for. Not exactly a good average. I will wade through a lot in the name of free, but I think the lesson here is you get what you pay for.

Side Jobs-Jim Butcher

This book is a collection of several of Butcher's short stories that have appeared in anthologies or have been published in other forms over the years. The stories span the entire series with the first story being before Storm Front and the last taking place just after Changes. Some of the stories are great and some are just okay. I had originally been excited that the novella from Thomas Raith's perspective was included since it isn't in print and sounded interesting. However, I was underwhelmed by it. The premise held promise, but there was something about it that just didn't ever gel.

The best story was "The Warrior". It takes place after Small Favors and deals with Michal and the Fists of God. It was a terrific story about how sometimes the things we do, that we think don't matter or are inconsequential, are the things that make the biggest impacts on those around us.

Giving Chase-Lauren Dane

I cannot figure out the 5 star reviews on this book. Are there two different books out there that are being confused? The premise had promise but the delivery was sloppy, redundant and irritating. The dialogue and character development was absolutely ridiculous and down-right insulting.

Firstly, the errors in grammar and word choice are unforgivable in a professionally published piece of work. I'm astounded that the writer, editor and final line editors all missed the incorrect tenses and missing words in sentences. Secondly the book was redundant. Characters repeated themselves and, worse, the scenes of intimacy repeated themselves. I realize that publishers of romance and erotica...and let me point out that this is true of smaller publishers and not so much the larger houses...have turned characters having unprotected sex into a crime and everyone better break out the protection. I understand the nod to political correctness; still, it is the responsibility of the author to handle that with finesse. This author failed miserably. The repetitive "tearing open" was so jarring and the actions in the intimate scenes were so redundant that it was dull. Fewer scenes described in depth, done better would have been preferable.

Finally, watching episodes of Designing Women is not a substitute for research. All of the characters were repeatedly addressing each other as honey, sugar, darling, etc. I live in Georgia where this book is set and no one here talks that way, especially the men. The men in this book sounded like women--or rather some stupid stereotype of southern women. No man in the south calls a woman in his own age group honey, sugar or darling unless she's his girl. And the women in this book were nothing more than a rehashing of the most simplistic and ridiculous stereotypes of southern women. To hear the author tell it, only the heroine, her closest friends and the mother of the hero are anything but cold-hearted B..'s or well, it starts with an sl- and I don't think I can use it in a review either. This book is downright insulting to the modern Southern woman.

Under the Persimmon Tree-Suzanne Fisher Staples

This is the story of a young girl, Najmah, caught in the middle of the war in Afghanistan. Her father and brother are taken by the Taliban and forced to fight. After her mother and infant brother are killed by American bombs, she is helped by the son of a neighbor who takes her with his family to a refugee camp on the Pakistani/Afghan border. Parallel to Najmah’s story is the story of a young American woman, Nusrat, who came to Pakistan with her Afghan husband so that he could open medical clinics across the border to help his people. As the story opens, that husband is missing. Eventually the two females' paths cross. And Nusrat finds herself frustrated in her attempts to save Najmah and the other children living in such horror.

This was just okay. It is a young adult book, written for the tween crowd, but still it seemed very rushed, as if the author was being held to a strict page limit. Many of the characters were undeveloped and their actions were therefore erratic. The lack of development made it hard to understand or to rationalize why the characters did what they did. Even in a children’s book, these basic elements of a story must be developed.

Ghost Story-Jim Butcher

Seriously? I kept expecting Bobby Ewing to step out of the shower. The story itself was really good. But the resolution to the bigger problem of Harry being dead was a cheat and not even worthy of a soap opera. No one expected Harry to stay dead but the solution to the mystery of his killer? Thank goodness it was really only a subplot in the grander scheme of what was happening in the book because if this was the grand finale, I probably would have chucked the book at the wall.

Laird of the Mist-Paula Quinn

If you're not big on historical accuracy and don't mind when an author forgets she's writing about the 17th century, you'll be fine. The author's characterization of the gender roles of this era are not spot on, and her over use of the Highland brogue reads less like authentic dialogue than as affected and difficult at times to read. In some places it is so badly done as to be incomprehensible. I do believe every fourth word of dialogue is "bonny", "braw", or "dinna".

Overall it is a predictable little read for those who don't want to think, which is fine. One of the best things about books is that they help us escape. Just don’t expect a great sweeping historical work of literature.

Also, I don't have a problem, as some have, with the hero being too much of a nasty murdering fellow to be forgiven. At the time, life was brutal. The Campbells and the MacGregors have been just shy of all out war for generations and that means they’ve been hacking up members of each other’s families. Of course one of the leaders of the MacGregors has killed and murdered the girl’s family members. It is what it is. But you can't make him a hero just by making the bad guy even worse than he is, not letting him kill the heroine or her brother and having him say "I love you." This guy is too brutal for that and the author doesn't give the reader enough to overcome that.

Rose Quartz-Sandra Cox

Four ancient women received magical amulets endowing them with a special gift or power. Those amulets still exist and Bella Tremain is the keeper of one. Now mad man Victor Price is in prison for trying to steal the healing amulet, but he's not out of the game. With help from the outside, he's set his sights on Bella's amulet that brings beauty and, more importantly, creativity hoping it will help him find a way to escape.

Cox consistently delivers engaging and well developed characters. Her stories are strong and well written. I'm looking forward to the third installment of the series.

Never a Bride- Amelia Grey

Mirabella has given up hope that her fiancé, Viscount Stonehurst, will ever return to marry her. Their fathers fixed the match six years ago after which he left for the Americas declaring he'd only return and marry her when he was old and gray. Since she was destined to be a spinster what would it hurt if she let a few gentlemen steal a kiss in the garden? Especially if the kisses revealed the identity of the man who drove her best friend Sarah to suicide? When Viscount Stonehurst returns unexpectedly, it creates more than one embarrassing moment for Mirabella.

This is the author's first Regency and it does show. What was surprising is that this isn't this author's first novel, she writes under a different name as well. My biggest criticism of this book was the dialogue. Mirabella is no novice to the ton or to the rules of society. It is not quite believable that she would act if she had no social filter on what she says or that she would be so forthcoming and unguarded with her returned fiancé, especially at first. He is a member of the nobility and she is a merchant's daughter.

In addition, the author does not fully establish why some characters would act as they do in the story. The "bad guy" for example, (he's not the actual antagonist in this story) is not really established as someone who would act as he does. There are no flaws revealed in his character until the last handful of pages when he's "revealed". It wasn't a surprise he ends up being the baddie, but Grey does not establish his character in this vein. Finally, the characters are likable, but they don't work as a couple. The chemistry feels forced.

It's a nice little story, just don't have great expectations.

The Farmer Next Door-Patricia David

Let me start by saying I like this author. I enjoy her Amish stories but this book, while an enjoyable read, was a tad irritating. This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. While I'm no expert in Ohio adoption law, I'm fairly certain it takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't Ohio, but Texas. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to research other elements of her story. It takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't the same as the adoptive parent. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to Google Ohio adoption laws. A quick search (five minutes on Google) revealed that it takes a minimum of six months after a child is placed in the home before adoptions are final. The boy doesn't arrive until halfway through the story.

Again it's a nice story, but sloppy research is a major flaw.