Friday, July 18, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: Not necessarily the Best Title…


                         Long time readers of this blog probably know that I am a big supporter of Amazon.  I always link to their site when doing book reviews and I tend to purchase over 90% of the books I buy for myself through Kindle.  So let me say right off that while this is a stunningly negative and unusual piece.  I will say that I STILL plan on doing business with Amazon and buying books from their site.  But, that being said, Kindle Unlimited; through my investigation today seems to be aimed at a tiny portion of their audience and you, as an avid reader of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror should save your money.  But let me tell you why…

                 I did not, sign up for Kindle Unlimited because I knew that what I wanted it to would, would be virtually impossible for Amazon to create without going out of business.  But what THEY DID create was an unlimited Indies service that allows you to read a few classics and major authors along the way.  Indie books are great, at least some of them are; but the idea is certainly great and I support folks who don’t want to go through traditional publishing.  That being said, however, this service leans heavily on books that normally would cost the reader anywhere from $.99-$5 to read without the service.  Which means that for the price of the service you could read anywhere from 2-10 books a month.  There are also some classics.  Which is great, except that classics on Amazon usually range from $.99-$3.  Which means that for the price of this service you could read anywhere from 3-9 classics a month. 

               There ARE some major author offers such as the entire Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series.  These books have been on the Amazon Prime service as free checkouts for a while, as well as Hugh Howey’s books.  I thought it was rather amusing that as soon as Mockingjay Part 1 the movie was announced that the book was removed from the Prime service.  But here it is again, if you didn’t get around to reading back then.  They HAVE added a few more books to mix like some Octavia Butler collections and the Lord of the Rings books.  Which were never, and are not at a classics price in the store.  I also spotted some books that are in the most recent Humble Sci fi Bundle.  Such as Timothy Zahn’s Blackcollar.  I’m guessing these were cheap ebooks to get the rights for as they are already practically giving it away over on the Humble Bundle site.

                 The Kindle Unlimited service, seems to be mostly limited to Indie authors, Kindle Exclusives, Classics, and a few cheap ebook titles that could be found elsewhere for practically the price of free.  Their flagship titles, Life of Pi, Water for Elephants, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings.  Have all been out for QUITE A WHILE and you can probably grab them from your local library.  Also if you have a used book store around your house, you will probably be able to get any of these for around $1-$5 each.  Being as most had extremely high circulations and when people turn in their books, those are the books they turn in.  Which drives down the price.

                  There is also an audiobook component to all this.  But the books on offer are the same books as those offered in the ebooks section.  I didn’t exhaustively look through them, but they appear to be the same featured titles, etc…  So if you want audiobooks for a good deal, just jump on a service also owned by Amazon.  For $14.95 a month you get to buy AND KEEP, a book of your CHOICE.  Also, they run nice sales and with the Whispersync feature of your kindle or kindle app.  You can usually pick up additional books at an EXTREMELY low cost.  And KEEP THESE BOOKS FOREVER!  You can cancel your subscription any time and still keep your audiobooks that you got from the service.  Pretty awesome.  I got all my Mary Robinette Kowal books from there and loved the experience!

                  As far as other categories than Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.  There are some interesting book offers for Nonfiction Book Bestsellers and some other classic books from those genres.  Unfortunately, most of these books ALSO appear to be mainly Kindle Exclusives and books that generally range from $3-$5.  There ARE some outliers thrown in for good measure, more so than in the genre examples I gave above and perhaps if you were not an avid reader of a particular discipline of History, Science, or Business this would be a good and cheap way to start.  Also assuming you couldn’t find these books at your local library for free.  The Nonfiction area of Kindle Unlimited is the ONLY place that to me feels like anything more than an abysmal failure.

               So who is Kindle Unlimited for?  People who love indie authors and read incredibly fast!  Also perhaps the college student who needs to be able research a bunch of different areas of Nonfiction quickly and can’t, for some reason find a local library that doesn’t suck.  But that is about it.  Perhaps in the future this service will get better.  But for right now, it IS NOT WORTH your $9.99.  If you don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating go over to Amazon and take a look at the titles on offer.  They will, AT LEAST show you everything they have to offer before you sign up.  Unlike Netflix, don’t get me started…

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thousand Names Book Review

Thousand Names

Django Wexler


July 2, 2013

4/5 Stars


       In life, I feel as though I’m a pretty patient person.  I usually don’t get frustrated very easily.  But the Thousand Names, was really pushing it’s luck with me.  I reached around the 300 page mark and was JUST starting to see the greatness of this book.  By the time the end happens, which it happens over the course of almost a hundred pages.  The reader feels a little shell shocked.  Maybe like a solider from one of the battalions in the book.  The beginning of the book paints interesting villains but we see them only two more times over the course of the entire book.  There is intrigue and politics, and many other things…  But not REAL forward facing villains.  Kind of like real war, you only see the soldiers not the generals who command them.  I suppose…

       The main viewpoint characters are interesting enough and by the end you feel as if you’ve grown attached to them.  Not because they are so relatable or interesting but more because you feel as though “you’ve been through the shit” with them.  It takes a rare book to make me feel as though I have fictional war time companions.

       By and large I REALLY didn’t like the Thousand Names.  Until you get around half way through the book, it’s incredibly slow.  The characters are unlikable, and some of the situations are ridiculous. The author pushes the boundaries that the reader needs to suspend their disbelief right up until near the end.  But then why am I giving this book four stars?  Because I want to read book 2.  I mean, I want to go get it right now and read it.  Which to me, means a book is great even if I have about ten reasons to the contrary.  I would say this,”Unless you want to get hooked by Mr. Django Wexler, into reading book 2.  DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!”  OK? Fair?  You decide…  Or not, up to you…

Shadows Beneath Book Review

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology

Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Dragonsteel Entertainment


5/5 Stars


        Yes, I’m reviewing another Anthology; when less than a month ago I said it would be a VERY LONG TIME before I did this again.  Oh well…  This is less of anthology than a writing tool, anyway.  The idea is that you read the stories and then see how the authors came up with them.  A kind of brainstorming to editing kind of thing.  This is definitely the first time I’ve EVER seen anything like this and it is great!  I loved seeing how things went from brainstormed ideas to a rough story to an edited story with the help of discussion and critique.  The stories, of course, are great.  But I think that seeing the process is ACTUALLY the more valuable thing here.  I would suggest this book to anyone who is an aspiring writer who likes science fiction and fantasy.  This is a really great look into the process that is normally glossed over by other writing books.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What if Harry Dresden was a Woman?


       Hello folks….

             Just wanted to drop a line and let you know I’m still alive.  I know today is the first post since the middle of June.  But things have made it impossible to keep up with my secondary and thirdary(it’s not a word sorry) books.  I’ve been reading the entire Witcher series and then writing a very long piece on it.  Look for that later this month.  Sorry but there are five books, not my fault.  In the meantime.  I wanted to pose a question to you folks….

          What if Harry Dresden was a woman?

          Now I know what your thinking…  Well if he was a woman things in the story would be REALLY different.  But, stop and consider if you will that, that was the only thing that we changed.  No other characters genders or move things around in other ways.  Just enough that it would make sense in the end.

         I’m not that far a long in the series.  I just finished Summer Knight.  It was extremely good as all of them have been so far.  But as I was nearing the end and especially upon starting the next book Death Masks.  I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like if Harry was a woman?

         For instance, she would be in love Susan; that doesn’t seem that strange.  But what about Michael?  Would his wife be mad that he was out all night fighting evil things or would she be more concerned that he was spending all night with a hot wizard?  Would his relationship with Billy the werewolf seem weird?  Would the White Council treat him differently?

         I’m sure there are lots of things about the novels that would fundamentally change.  But would the popularity of the series be effected?  Would it even have reached 15 books with a female protagonist?  I would like to think so, but the Dresden books, I’ve noticed…  Are incredibly popular.  There are plenty of popular urban fantasy novels out there with female protagonists, in fact it’s quite popular to do that.  But none of those series have reached the heights that the Dresden Files have.  It’s more than just take detective story and add magic.  But considering the amount of similar works out there.  It’s hard to believe that a story of the same ilk, even a very good one.  Could have not only survived this long but flourished.  Because the kind of noire trope of the detective who has to solve his way out of crimes and mayhem with magic added.  Is such a well worn road.  I mean, there are fast food restaurants on the road and there’s even a movie theater it gets so much traffic.  What about the Dresden Files has managed to keep it going?  What makes it so uniquely popular?

        I’m not really sure, the writing is very good.  But not in a “oh shit this guy can write.”  Kind of way, more like it rarely gets in your way kind of good writing.  I can often read, and usually do read the Dresden books a little faster than a normal book.  Mostly, because so much of the world is familiar to me.  I love the humor in the book and I often just wonder how Harry is going to get out of this or that impossible situation. 

      The one thing that I think is rather strange about the Dresden Files is how obsessed Harry is with describing women.  In a given story I can get three or four descriptions of what Murphy is wearing and I might not even find out what Michael is wearing at all.  Being a guy, it doesn’t bother me from a sexist point of view.  More that it kind of interferes with the flow of the story.  It is so different from everything else around it that it naturally calls attention to itself.  It takes you out of the story…  Which is odd, considering how good Jim Butcher is at drawing a VERY believable world, with dragons, ogres, wizards, and the rest.  I was certainly able to deal with this in the first couple of books.  But I’m on book 5 and he’s still doing it.  I’m just confused that no editor or agent didn’t mention this to Jim Butcher and say,

“Dude, I know this guys likes girls.  But we don’t need the play by play with every woman he meets.”

    But that is neither here nor there.  If Jim Butcher wants to write Harry Dresden this way; well he’s on book 15 and it’s worked so far.  So good for him.  I just wonder how people would respond to a woman acting that way or more accurately thinking that way.  Feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know what you think about all this.

Memory of Water Book Review

Memory of Water

Emmi Itaranta

Harper Voyager

(June 10, 2014)

3/5 Stars


       Global warming and climate change are not topics unknown to the dystopian genre.  In fact, I’ve probably read more YA dystopian climate change/global warming gone haywire books than I’d care to think about.  While I do understand that these are real issues in the world today.  I often have problems with the way these books tend to implement their theories of how the world ended.  Also, there seems to be a knowledge apocalypse that goes along with these changes.  Which is sometimes understandable be is often not explained well enough to be believable by any modern reader.  Perhaps, someone who isn’t all that knowledgeable or hasn’t been around long enough to remember the way things were when there was no internet.  Might think that if we simply shut off the internet and all our cell phones that we would slip back into the wild west or the stone age.  Yeah, no…

      Predictably, the reason I being this up is that Memory of Water is one of these books.  Also, some of the problems that plague the world itself are a little bit obscure.  I’m sure in trying to create believable story of oppression and intrigue.  The author forget to world build or maybe just forgot to share that world building with her readers.  The actual plot of the story was relatively interesting.  But there seemed to be a lot of things happening that the reader should just accept at face value.  Also, perhaps the fact that the story seemed to take place in a rural Chinese village probably leaves some things a little skewed to a western audience.  Which I would be one of those people.

      The reason for the dystopia is not necessarily important.  But the effects of that dystopia should have been ever present.  Other than a lack of rain and an abundance of bugs.  There really didn’t seem too much in evidence.  And if that was all, it wasn’t enough.  I would love to know how all these bugs survived so easily without water that they kept procreating to be such a problem.  Most bugs lay their eggs in water or at least on moist leaves and such.  If the world was so bereft of water where did they all come from?  The half hearted history lesson around a third of the way through the book didn’t help and while this might have something to do with main thrust of the story.  Like, this is what happened…  But that didn’t seem to be the case.  The reader is never given the “official version” of events so that this promised secret version seems really odd.

      While the story itself wasn’t too bad.  The world building was so poorly done that it kept pulling me out of the story.