Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW: The Desert of Stars

Title: The Desert of Stars
Genre: science fiction, military
Price: $4.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon Smashwords
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The Desert of Stars is John Lumpkin’s second book, a fairly close sequel to his freshman effort, Through Struggle, The Stars.  After I read and favorably reviewed Through Struggle, I eagerly awaited Desert, hoping it was as good as the original.  It is.

This book is set in the year 2141.  Humanity, after having seen an asteroid smash into the Indian Ocean, has decided to establish colonies in space.  Thanks to a Japanese scientist, they have developed a means of faster-than-light travel, and used it to establish a bewildering array of colonies on nearby star systems.  Some colonies are independent; most are controlled by an Earth nation or group of nations. 

As we find out very early in The Desert of Stars, a number stars that should have had habitable planets don’t, thus creating the titular desert.  Since FTL travel requires going from star to star, this is a real problem, and will put the brakes on the expansion of some colonial empires but not others.  A war breaks out.

Lumpkin’s war is not, however, the mad-dash affairs of Star Trek or Star Wars.  His spaceships obey the laws of physics, taking weeks to cross a solar system.  There are no force fields, no visible lasers, and in general scientific accuracy is maintained.  This still results in a very entertaining book, largely because Lumpkin’s characters are believable and he seems to understand both militaries and history.  Much of the story is driven by the friendships developed by these characters during this war.

In Lumpkin’s previous book, I dinged him for not including a number of nations, such as India, in the order of battle.  Here, Lumpkin resolves that complaint, making India and Russia, two notable nations left out, key parts of the plot.  Lumpkin also shows a keen awareness of the old saying that “nations have no permanent friends, just permanent interests.”

In short, as literature, I found The Desert of Stars to be everything a reader of science fiction would want.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

REVIEW: Bouffon Stories 2012

Title: Bouffon Stories 2012
Author: Jan Jacob Mekes
Genre: Collection
Price: $0.99 (eBook)
Publisher: Kindle
Reviewed by: Veinglory

Bouffon Stories is a collection of tales Mekes wrote in response to challenges. These were generally in the form of a list of items or events that must appear in the story. Mekes’ readers obviously enjoy giving him a difficult task. Such as to write a tale involves walruses, and greed, and not using the letter P.

The responses to the challenges are inventive, quirky and interesting.  However they generally lack the element of plot (set up and resolution) that makes a really good short story.

My favorite was Bronies which uses a silly phenomenon to make a serious point. The Last Collector has a very interesting premise, but it proved to come largely from the prompt. Others were entertaining enough but I feel like they squandered the potential of unusual elements such as “a safe with a lock that has sixteen unmarked buttons”.

Even with my reservation this is a fun collection and none of the stories is long enough to really wear out its welcome, so I think it is a pretty fair deal at 99c.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review of Tortured Memory by Lawrence W. Gold, MD

Product Details

Title: Tortured Memory
Author: Lawrence W. Gold, MD
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Price: $4.99 (eBook) / $ 14.65 Paperback
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1482585209
Reviewed by: Erica Moulton

Babies are born every day without limbs, with organ abnormalities or absence or missing chromosomes.  It should only be natural that we expect some babies to be born devoid of the ability to feel any emotions.  I have a fascination with abnormal psychology and a strong opinion that psychopaths are born that way and are not shaped by their environment.  When the offer to review Dr. Lawrence W. Gold’s psychological thriller novel, Tortured Memory, I jumped at it. 

In the beginning of the book, I was very wary about how good it would be.  The stream of consciousness was very choppy and unorganized.  As I dove further into the book, I realized that all the information was to build a foundation of knowledge for the reader of Abbie’s background, but it was done in a way that almost deterred me from finishing the book.  Any book that I review, I will read in its entirety so I moved on.  I am glad I did.

I feel that once Dr. Gold got writing, the passion for this story all started to naturally flow out and form into a great plot.  I loved how it started out with one scene, backed up to explain the sequence of events that led to the scene and just as a climatic scene played out, it fast forwarded back to the original scene leaving the reader on the edge of suspense as they navigated thru the rest of the book.  There were several possible suspects, which I liked trying to guess which one was the guilty party. 

As many books in the indie author universe, it needs another comb-thru by a professional editor for some spelling and grammar errors as well as some transitioning between first and third person points of view.    The cover art is beautiful and related well to the novel.  I would be interested in reading more of Dr. Gold’s Brier Hospital Series.  If you enjoy psychology and thrillers, then I recommend Tortured Memory. 

7.5/10 Rating

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Reviewer Intro

Hi Peeps!  My name is Erica Moulton and I am very excited to be joining the POD People reviewer panel!  I self published two of my novels in early 2013 and was astounded to find how many self published authors were out there trying to get their novels noticed.  In promoting my own novels, I stumbled across POD People and it was love at first sight.  As a writer myself, I love brutal honesty.  Writers can not learn to grow without honest criticism.  I love to write, read and analyze so here I am!

I started out in college to pursue a career as an English teacher but life’s crazy path landed me in Accounting and Human Resources.  I have had various courses in English including English 101, English 102, The Novel, Survey of Native American Literature, American Literature Levels 1 & 2, etc.  I enjoy reading General Fiction, Suspense/ Thriller, some Paranormal and Non-Fiction books about the following subjects: Clean Eating/Living, Self-Sustainable Living, True Crime, some Memoirs, some Controversy Theory.  I need a writer to make me question my own beliefs, to make me sob, to make me feel connected to the characters.  After finishing one of the best books I have ever read, I took a shower and cried my eyes out for twenty minutes.  I am also huge on symbolism and hidden meanings. 

I live in upstate New York with my husband and our children.  I work full time, blog (Penny Pinching Parents and Operation Life Organization), write (What Happened and Miss Non-Perfectionist: Stories of Failure to Achieve Supermom Status) and have a million hobbies (running, couponing, learning about clean living, volunteer cheer coach, taxi cab driver to practice/lessons, etc).  If I do get a spare second not buried in a book or my lap top I am a huge fan of TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, The Following and any true crime TV.  So basically, I am never bored! 

Feel free to leave a comment below introducing who you are so I get a feel for the followers of this blog!  Have a great day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

REVIEW: Spots the Space Marine

Title: Spots the Space Marine: The Defense of the Fiddler
Genre: SF
Price: $5.99 (ebook) / $18,80 (paperback)
Publisher: Stardancer Studios
ISBN: 978-1470131050
Point of Sale: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

This blog has been reviewing the work of M. C. A. Hogarth since I reviewed The Worth of a Shell back in 2009.  (Full disclosure – I was not the target audience for that book.)  So, when word came of Ms. Hogarth’s run-in with Games Workshop over an attempt to trademark “space marines” I decided to purchase the ebook version of Spots the Space Marine.  I can report that I am the target audience for that book, and that I enjoyed it immensely.

Written in the form of a screenplay, and originally serialized on the author’s website, Spots is the story of Magda Heloise Guitart, a thirty-something woman who is called back into military service from the reserves.  She’s shipped out to a backwater world, part of a detail guarding a Naval supply depot.  Perhaps needless to say, problems ensue nearly immediately.  Spots (the marines all use call-signs) is significantly older and more mature than her fellow Marines, and headquarters was in error when they thought her area was a backwater.

The “Fiddler” they are defending is an alien named Samuel-Colt, who is a member of the race that gave humanity the technology they need to fight this war.  Spots befriends Colt, while dealing with hostile aliens and becoming a valued member of her team.  The book is in short classic space opera, and a real romp.

I should be clear though what it’s not.  Despite the title, the book is not at all light-hearted.  It’s serious, and there’s not a whiff of “Boy’s Own Adventure” to be had.  The screenplay format does create a certain urgency when you’re reading it, which works out well for this material.  There’s one other idiosyncrasy to note – Hogarth stars out (***) all the soldier’s curse words!     Presumably this is to avoid offending Spot’s maternal ears.  It works but it’s weird.

And I think “it works but it’s weird” summarizes the entire book.  It’s not something that would be seen as “commercial” but it’s highly enjoyable, and highlights what can be done with self-publishing.  Recommended.


Friday, March 08, 2013

Hydra, strangely like self-publishing

News broke recently that authors published by Random House's Hydra imprint pay for just about everything the publisher does for them via their royalties.

Specifically, royalties are based on net, and the net excludes "one-time out of pocket title set up costs" which include editing formatting art and design, and 10% of gross royalties for a "sales, marketing, and publicity fee"

See also:

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Hell to the No

I just received this email.  Bolding added by me.  I don't think I need to say any more.  Boggled. 


Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type of offering for self-publishing authors.  With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience.  S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition. 

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options.  We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers.  The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway.  Click here to learn more about the affiliate program.  In addition, we’d like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site.  We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

Please let me know if you have time for a brief call and visit www.archwaypublishing.com to learn more about Archway.

Simon & Schuster
[Phone number]"

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Review of Book One of Toxic Friendships Series: Red Haze by Adrian Lilly

Title: Red Haze
Author: Adrian Lilly
Genre: Mystery/ Paranormal
Price: $ .99 eBook (Amazon)
Reviewed by: Erica Moulton

Before reading Red Haze by Adrian Lilly I was not a fan of sororities or fraternities.  Hazing, pledging, Phi, Delta, Beta, rushing, Greek anything associated with trying to be accepted by a “popular” group has always been unappealing to me.  In all fairness, rarely do you see a bookworm in a sorority house.  Even a smoking hot one like myself.  At the end of this book, I felt even stronger distaste for the sister- and brotherhoods shenanigans.  If I have offended anyone yet, you might want to skip this book.

The book was predictable in my opinion- almost cliché.  Girl with jaded past begrudgingly pledges popular sorority led by raging bitch.  Prefers her down to earth yet unpopular roommate who is detested by the sorority.  Only pledging to appease mother and boyfriend.  Add in a few twists and turns with a few appearances of a ghostly figure and you have yourself Red Haze. 

The main character Marne was unlikable to me.  Very bitter, very flat.  Almost bratty at points.  I did really like supporting characters Sara and Curt.  I’d like to read a book that branches off with their lives following Red Haze. 

It’s not that I didn’t like Red Haze, I just wouldn’t put it in my Favorites of All Times roster.  Props to Lilly’s impressive vocabulary range, though.  For the first time I got use out of my Kindle’s feature that highlights and defines words that I was not familiar with.  I would suggest Lilly do another round of editing as I found several errors, including a character mix up during one scene.  I think the price he has set for this eBook is appropriate. 

I agree with the title of Lilly’s book series- Toxic Friendships.  Relationships of any kind can prove to be very toxic, I just think Lilly has it in him to be even more toxic than Red Haze was. 

Red Haze is available on Amazon and Smashwords for purchase. 

Rating: 5/10

Monday, March 04, 2013

Authorhouse Class Action Pending?

Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP is apparently preparing to launch a case against Author Solutions (including AuthorHouse, Inkubook, iUniverse, Trafford, Wordclay, and Xlibris) for deceptive practices. Interested authors can contact them here.

REVIEW: Broken Aro

Title: Broken Aro
Author: Jen Wylie
Genre: YA fantasy
Price: $2.99 (ebook) / $12.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Untold Press
ISBN: 978-0615703367
Point of Sale: Amazon Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Broken Aro is the first book of a series, and the first novel of Jen Wylie’s that I’ve read.   (Full disclosure – she’s on my Facebook page, but I can’t recall exactly when we met.)  Although I don’t consider myself a fan of fantasy, I enjoyed reading Broken Aro.

The book is the story of Arowyn “Aro” Mason, youngest child and only daughter in the Mason family.  When the main story opens, fifteen-year-old Aro is hastily packing, as her city is being overrun by invaders.  Her and her brothers are trying to make a break for it, but fail, and Aro, somewhat disguised as a boy, ends up in the hold of a slave ship.  You could say she’s having a really bad day.   Things go downhill from there, although during the course of the story Aro runs into and befriends (with hints that things will become more amorous than “friends”) with a Prince and a Fae, as well as several ordinary human males. 

Like I said, I’m not a fantasy reader, but I found this story very appealing.  First off, this is in many ways not epic fantasy.  Aro, although more competent with a knife than the average fifteen-year-old, is no supergirl.  She has a believable set of skills, fears and motivations.  Second, the focus of the story is on her survival – what happens to the kingdom matters only inasmuch as it affects her and hers.  Lastly, although there is magic, it’s not laid on too thickly.  I’m also not a romance reader, but the hints of a potential romance were well done.

Overall, I found Broken Aro a very engaging read, and recommend it to all ages.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Review of Kelly Cozy's Ashes

Product Details

Title: Ashes
Author: Kelly Cozy
Genre: Suspense
Price: $1.99 (eBook) / $ 13.50 Paperback
Publisher: Smite Publications
ISBN: 978-0985123451
Reviewed by: Erica Moulton

Most of us remember where we were when we first heard of 9/11. It was a moment in time that forever changed America. For a majority of Americans, years later it is just a distant memory. For survivors and those who lost loved ones during the attacks it's a recurrent nightmare that they deal with daily. What choice would those people make if they had the opportunity to murder the person responsible for planning the attacks?

Kelly Cozy's novel Ashes spins a tale that poses that very dilemma for a survivor of a similar attack. Told from a third person point of view the story changes between two strangers as they deal with the aftermath of the attack and how it affects their lives. Each chapter paves a separate path for the characters, paths that are bound to eventually cross and bring them face to face with one another.

At many points in the book I found myself thinking I wasn't going to give a glowing review. Some of the plot seemed hard to believe as plausible, at some points the book seemed to drag a bit and other parts were too verbose for my liking. However, I was delighted to find that all these negative thoughts were blown away by the ending.

Cozy did a superb job of weaving an intricate web that will draw the reader in and unable to tear themselves away from the ending. I found many aspects of the book to be symbolic of events that transpired from 9/11, which hidden messages and symbolism is a huge plus in my reading choices.

I crave books that make readers question their beliefs, that leave room for speculation and end with a bang. Cozy satisfied this craving and left me hungry for more. I look forward to the second book in this series.

7/10 Rating