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Sunday, December 11, 2011

The New Girl Who Found A Dead Body by Milda Harris

Blurb: Chloe is excited about spending her senior year of high school in California with her friend Jake's family. Even the usual dread of being the new girl can't bring her down. That is, until she stumbles across the dead body of the most popular girl in school, Lora Kelly. Now she's receiving threatening notes...will she be next? Suddenly, Chloe's dream life, has turned into a nightmare! 
Welcome to the next installment in my roundup of the best writers of the year revisited. Last week we looked at Jamie Sedgwick's fantasy masterpiece The Tinkerers Daughter a magical fantasy story. This week something completely different. We revisit Milda Harris a talented mystery writer.

Review by Dale:

Harris seems to be onto a winning formulae in the murder mystery genre. Delivering another chilling mystery for us to devour in one frantic session. I'd certainly hate to be one of Harris's imaginary characters, as they seem to have a habit of dying in gruesome ways.

Here is an odd fact for you, this is the third story I have reviewed where the main guys name is Jake....

The last book I reviewed by Harris (Adventures in Funeral Crashing) had an outcome that you might have guessed. But this time around you are weaving and bobbing all over the place.

I think one of the best parts of Harris's writing are the characters. So realistic that you easily relate to them and their lives as she lays it out on the page for us.

It is difficult to review a mystery story without dropping spoilers and I don't want to ruin anyones enjoyment of this story.

It's packed with those, "no don't go in there!" moments from good horror movies. A roller coaster ride of white knuckle tension! A great trick for this type of story is putting the hero, or heroine as Chloe is, in mortal peril. In an impossible situation, one with absolutely no hope of getting out of. Then stewing the reader whilst the murderer(s) recounts their horrific details.  So how on earth does Chloe survive? Well I could tell you, but then I'd have to murder you too.

Age 14+
Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords, Amazon etc
Link to Download: Here
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 58,000 (appx)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Tinkerer's Daughter by Jamie Sedgwick

So it's December already and it's nearly a year that Chilli Tween Reads has been reviewing great books for teens and tweens from indie writers. Doesn't time fly when your a reading fun stuff. I can't believe its well over twenty books and authors.

Welcome to the second installment of the year end review of some the best of the best writers I've had on my blog. Todays book is by Young Adult author Jamie Sedgwick. I first reviewed one of Sedgwick's books way back in February. I was instantly impressed by his fantastic and dark story about the darklings. You can revisit the review here or read on for a review of The Tinkerer's Daughter.

Blurb: Breeze is an outcast, a half-breed orphan in a world devastated by 1,000 years of war. She never knew her elven mother. Her father leaves her in the care of a reclusive Tinker, with her true identity safely hidden. Then the war comes and Breeze is exposed. If she has the courage, Breeze has a chance to change the world. If she fails, she'll be hunted to her death as a traitor. 

 Review by Dale:

I cracked this open on my kindle reader this morning and found myself unable to put it down. The story unfolds beautifully with just enough action and drama to quickly draw you into Breeze's world.

A half cast between two race's Breeze lives in an earth like reality. The story is well set in a pre-industrial revolution time period. A time that conjures up the amazing worlds of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. To spice things up and add a new twist to the nascent steampunk world he adds a touch of elfish type high fantasy.

I think this writers greatest asset is his imagination. Like Lauro Eno from last weeks review the superlative, lavish and full worlds these writers conjure up for us is breathtaking.

Sedgwick has a narrative style that is reminiscent of the old masters like Edgar Rice Burroughs, (he wrote Tarzan). His narration powers ahead like a locomotive on full steam. Smashing through chapter after chapter of suspense and excitement. Covering what would take some writers a trilogy to actualize in about three hundred words.

Sedgwick's knack of ending chapters with suspense compels the reader to swipe the next page. Unable to put this down it can be read in a matter of hours. Yet you easily put the book down feeling replete.

The last story of Sedgwick's I reviewed was so fundamentally different to the story here, the only commonality is the excellent writing. It wont matter if you are a fourteen year old boy or a forty one year old boy (or girl) you will love this! I hope the author is busy writing something new for us to enjoy next year.

Age 10+
Format: eBook
Available from Amazon or Smaswords etc

Link to Download:Smashwords or Amazon
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 70,000 (appx)
Author: Jamie Sedgwick

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tempest Child by Laura Eno

Welcome to the first review in my end of year look-back. Over the coming weeks I will be choosing books from some of the best writers I've reviewed over the year. I've got some great books stacked up from some awesome indie authors like Spencer Baum, Jamie Sedgwick and Milda Harris. If you have any favorites you'd like me to review leave a comment and I'll see what I can do!

First up is Tempest Child by Laura Eno. I first reviewed Eno back in July with her charming story the Realms of the Red Rabbit. A very unique story with classical elements, and a five star effort. 

Blurb: As future Queen and Guardian of the Elements, Princess Skylather'cha'eab thought her worst nightmare was the impending find-a-husband party until events take an ominous turn. Now she must put her life at risk to save her Kingdom. Skyla's world is turned upside-down when she enters the Crossroads. Does she have the courage to sort truth from lie, or will she die not knowing who betrayed her?

Review by Dale:

I was very impressed with the first story I read from this writer so I jumped at the chance to read this new story. I had great expectations for another awesome read.

Tempest Child is classic fantasy. It's set in a world apart from our world in a magic realm where the heroine of our story rules over the elements, or she would if she was Queen and had finished her training. The problem is trouble can't wait and the young princess finds herself pushed into the crossroads far too soon.

It took me a long time to finish this book. I just couldn't get into it, too easily distracted as the characters seem to amble about without much purpose for the first eighty pages.

The writing is good, the same tight and elegant prose that had me rapt with Realms of the Red Rabbit. It's just the story seemed a bit verbose. It wasn't until Sky was transported into the crossroads with her quirky companion that things started to gather pace.

Eno does have a great imagination and the richness of the worlds she creates certainly create magnificient environments for her stories but again this book has just a few too many parallels with the Realms of the Red Rabbit story. The constant changing of the realms, the often unseen malevolence in the realms trying to kill Sky and companions. If you haven't read Realms of the Red Rabbit then it would be moot, but for me Tempest Child can't compete with the richness and often creepy atmosphere created in that great story.

It is very difficult to avoid comparing the two, where Realms was a story with a purpose, (the realization and rehabilitation of the bad ways of the protagonist) I don't see such a boldly detailed premise here. Girl faces environmental challenges, meets hunky guy, falls in love, comes back home kicks butt and lives happily ever after? I wanted more depth.

But what if you are fourteen and reading Eno for the first time? Then if you can hang in there for the beginning the journey is still well worth the fare. Eno's writing is still full of charm and an almost scary imagination that still keeps you guessing page after page. 4 out of 5 stars for me.

Age 12+
Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: $0.00c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 60,000 (appx)
Author: Laura Eno
Author's Blog: Here

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'll be Home for Peacemas by Shannon O'Neil

Blurb: Bailey Hamilton isn't exactly a recluse, but when it comes to Christmas, she prefers a pair of sweats and quiet time with the television - anything to stay away from her hometown, where things are anything but quiet and painful memories lurk. But after an incident with a homeless man dubs her the "Santa Slugger," Bailey finds herself in the last place she expected - home. 

 Review by Dale:

This is perhaps my second foray into chic-lit comedy? And it's probably targeted more at the adult or advanced YA reader rather than the Tween.

This is also another genre that that I don't claim to be any kind of expert in. I've seen the Bridget Jones movie and something with Sandra Bullock in it so I'm not completely nieve....

What is immediately obvious a few pages into this novel is that author Shannon O'Neil has quite a way with words. "My grandfather would sooner have seen his youngest son in full drag carrying a Jimmy Carter campaign sign than..." The whole story is punctuated with snappy little punchlines that make you laugh out loud and cause those sitting around you to eye you with suspicion and move away. Definitely better to read this when you are alone or out of earshot.

Comedy is tricky and weaving comedy into a serious story that has a great message is not a challenge for the feint hearted writer. So I think O'Neil has done exceptionally well in maintaining the comedic flow of the book whilst delivering a credible and compelling piece of dysfunctional domestic drama for us to enjoy.

I think O'Neils greatest strength maybe lies in her character development. Some of the amazing nut cases she has conjured up are absolute gems. A personal favorite being the massive lumberjack simpleton Maylene. O'Neil has given only a tiny amount of detail in describing her and yet this character has fully metastasized in my mind. The other thoroughly enjoyable character is Olivia, whose complete insanity would give Batman's arch nemesis the Joker a run for his money. I dont want to spoil the fun for any potential readers out there by giving away too many of the jokes and shenanigans contained within though.

I'll be Home for Peacemas is easy to read and moves along briskly. There are a lot of characters in this book and honestly I did get them confused at times, probably because I didn't get a chance to read this in just one or two sittings but kept coming back to it. The story itself is told as a recollection of past events and jumps randomly around the last few Christmases in the life of Bailey Hamilton. You know something big has happened, but you dont know what triggered it off and that suspense keeps you turning in the pages.

So if you are looking for something to take away for a long weekend of reading in the sun and you like that  'Meet the parents' kind of mad humour, then this is the book to pack.

 Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords 
Link to Download: Here
Price: $2.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 80,000 (appx)
Author: Shannon O'Neil

Monday, October 31, 2011

80AD - The Jewel of Asgard by Aiki Flinthart

Blurb: What happens when you take a pair of ordinary, miserable 14 year olds out of their ordinary, miserable lives and throw them into another world and another time? Chaos, fear, magic and excitement - that's what. When Phoenix and Jade somehow end up in the bodies of their own warrior Avatars in the online fantasy game, 80AD, they have to play the game through to get home. Do they have what it takes? 

 Review by Dale:

Forgive my tardy return to reviewing, I have been unwell with a lingering flu for several weeks now. So without further delay I present the latest Chilli Tween Review for your enjoyment.

This story is very unique, and I think that Flinthart has a recipe here that should be easily reproduced as a series. I notice she has banged out one every two months. I'm not sure if thats how fast she writes or if she had written them previously and that was the time taken to get them through Smashwords' meat grinder?

The premise is immensely entertaining, the two main heroes get sucked into a computer game reality and discover that they have to play out the games premise in order to save themselves and their own world. So far so good.

The setting of the game is also brilliant. Roman occupied Britannia. Every little boy loves the Romans, and spicing them up with giant Ogres and Elves just makes the scene every more exciting. I can imagine nail biting ten year olds ripping through this one nice and quickly.

The story works well, has a good structure and one scene links very well into the next with a well tempo'd style. The meticulous attention to historical details is great to see. A history lesson without beating anyone over the head about it. Readers are learning because its important to the story, not just a nice snap in. The writing is well targeted at the 8 - 12 year reader, it is easy to follow, with no overly convoluted narratives. It has a great flow that will keep young readers interested. There are still a lot of editing errors in this book though, basic typos and grammar or layout errors. It is a little distracting.

The characters are well handled. That is the two main protagonists, Phoenix and Jade. The other two companions don't get a lot of screen time to reveal themselves too fully. I thought the young thief, Brynn was a great sidekick. And the idea of Marcus the young Roman had great potential but he never really got a chance to come out. Maybe he shines more in book two? I would have loved to have seen how his first century attitudes contrasted and conflicted with the pair from the twenty first century.

Another small bug bear was at the end. Flinthart had done a great job bring all the protagonists and antagonists together in a spectacular last stand. There at the nail biting conclusion, Phoenix, a hairs breadth from razor sharp roman steel has a crisis of conscience. So instead of maintaining the great momentum she had established, the whole story collapsed into a mental conversation about the ethics of retreat. I think that could have been written a bit differently that allowed the characters to have their reflection on the implications of their actions but maybe after we were allowed the action scene to maintain its momentum.

It will be interesting to see how Flinthart's writing matures over the series as well. I know my writing changed the more i wrote and I know I'm learning a lot by reading and reviewing other writers too.

All said and done its a great story! One I'm sure the target readers will love and I'm definitely keen to read the other books in the series and review them here. I give it 4 stars. It's FREE too so why wait, scull down and click on the download link now!

The cover art is great too. Im glad that the author has taken the time to get some professional art rather than the stock clipart you see too much of in indie publishing.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: $0.00c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 60,000 (appx)
Author: Aiki Flinthart
Author's Blog: Here

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Evanescent by Kristen Portillo

Blurb: Brinn Kiernan is an immortal living in a human body. The problem? She doesn't know it. She must find a cure to the symptoms that plague her before they end her life. Meanwhile she must also dodge attacks on her life by her estranged and immortal, identical twin sister. Will her human body give out on her before she finds the cure or will her sister get to her first? 

Review by Dale:

I seem to be on a roll of recent, fossicking out new and exciting nuggets in the indie world. But this time I've managed to smash all previous conceptions as to just how good indie writers are. 

Kristen Porttillo is a serious threat to the dominance in popularity of the mainstream supernatural romance writers. If I was Stephanie Meyer I'd be afraid, very afraid.

This story is epic, at eight hundred and ten pages on my iPad it is not a quick read. Thats because Portillo has taken her time to create a rich and lucid stage for her characters to play their parts. Each character, unique and careful scripted into the story. There is no wasted dialogue, no random prose or imagery. Every noun, every verb every tantalizing adjective is leading the reader to a fantastic climax. And not just the love, but the adventure thats in store for Brinn as well.

This is a story about love yes, but also about supernatural creatures, Vampires, Miphares, Werewolves and other mysterious and imaginative folk Portillo has created. But above all else it's the writing itself that is so fantastic. The symphony of colorful and thoughtful imagery, the infinite attention to the smallest details. Portillo writes you into Brinn's world. You are an active bystander, experiencing the smells, the cacophonous beating of enamored hearts and heaving of unrequited love right along side her.

A classic triangle of love. Jack the dashing and insanely handsome classmate who pursues Brinn inspite of her disdain for him. Intoxicated by his good looks but uncertain of his intentions Brinn finds herself falling for Jack. But the more time she spends in his company the more she realizes it's a means to seeing more of Seth.

Brinn is affected by the audacious good looks of Seth but his aloofness and apparent dislike for her causes her great angst.  This love triangle twists and turns for most of the first part of the book. Then the heart pounding chapter thirteen marks a turning point in the story and heralds the point that makes it impossible to put this book down.

So who does Brinn finally end up with? The rascallious and cheeky Jack, whose sweet kisses cause hot flushes to rise from Brinn's core? Or Seth, from whom a mere glance is enough to send Brinn into a lustful stupor? Well you will just have to read it to find out.

This book is so exceptionally entertaining, so well written, I have to give it 6 stars! 

So to all you Supernatural lovers, you Twilight junkies, you Vampire Academy attendees, go buy a big bag of candles, some coconut oil and cinnamon (trust me) Download this book and experience it for yourself.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.99c (at time of review by voucher 
 JB88X code)
Wordcount: 175,000 (appx)
Author:Kristen Portillo

Author's BlogHere

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adventures In Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris

Blurb: Sixteen year old Kait Lenox has a reputation as the weird girl in her high school and maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Kait has a hobby crashing funerals. At one of these, Kait is outted by the most popular guy in school, Ethan Ripley. Yet, instead of humiliating her, Ethan asks for her help, and Kait finds herself in full on crush, as well as entangled in a murder mystery. 

Reviewed by Dale

I seem to be on a run of chic lit at present. This little gem I picked up yesterday. Its one of those frustrating books that you should never take to bed with you. For two good reasons. One being that Harris has a habit of leaving chapters as cliff hangers, forcing you to stay up till way past the candles best hours. And two, even though you begrudgingly put the ebook reader down and turn out the light your brain still can't resist thinking about 'who dunnit'.

I had my suspicions early on and I was kind of right, but none the less the plot does a great job of rolling you around from suspect to suspect. I think this is a difficult genre to write in and its very evident that Harris has planned this story out well. It has a crisp, fresh momentum that reads well and entertains easily. 

One of my favorite parts of well written stories are what I call the eddies. If a story is a large river, with the main plot the major flow, then its the tiny eddies and back flows that fascinate and add so much depth to a great story. The drama between Kait and Ariel, not overly relevant to the main plot but such a treat to read. I found myself greatly enjoying the asides as the flowed through the book. Kyle and Suzie another great little sub story that has me thinking about my own school days. Sigh.

The characters were full bodied, aged well and believable. There were even a few 'ah ha' moments for me that might have made my school dating shambles a bit more tenable had i only known. (Or read this!)  

It is funny that the last two books I've read have both had men that go beyond perfect as the leading men in the stories. This one has silky hair, the last story had chocolate hair. I guess I'll never be a chic lit writer, I never think of hair. 

So conclusions, this is an easy one. Its good, in fact its very good. Its easy to read, hard to put down and has very likable characters. The story is compelling and although nothing new, it has so much happening around it you certainly won't get bored!. 5 stars, click on the link below and go get it!

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 67,000 (appx)
Author:Milda Harris

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Atlantis by Lisa Graves

Blurb: Elliott is a mystery. For Lilly, he is an obsession. Lilly's life starts to change dramatically when Elliott moves in next door. Weird things start to happen, and Lilly finds herself questioning her reality. But things aren't what they seem. Packed with hidden codes, Atlantis is a paranormal romance worth getting lost in. Do you believe in Atlantis?  

Review by Dale:

It was a well written post on Facebook that got me interested in reading this one. I think its a bit challenging for me to properly review chic lit. Since its not a genre I spend a lot of time reading. But this story has merits that stretch across several themes. Early on in the piece when Lilly sees a face in the mirror of her bathroom the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. There are definitely elements of suspense and certainly a compelling mystery that drives this romantic drama along.  Early on in the piece I was likening this book to Audrey Niffenegger's 'The Time Travelers Wife', the multiple scenes that the story kept crossing reminded me of Henry's troubled life.

I have read a Mills and Boone and must confess I spent the entire 200 odd pages waiting for something to happen. Of course it never did. Thats why stores like this are so much better than those dreary tomes my mother collects. This is a story with substance. Characters are far from wooden. They pout and fret, they coddle and betray. In fact by the end of this story I had actually come to dislike Lilly. I felt the way she manipulated young Nicholas's feelings to get what she wanted was cold.

It isn't often a book can carry you along for some 200 hundred pages and yet still give you no idea how the story will end. Some of the darkness that seemed to creep through the imagery that Graves was using had me convinced it would not be a happy ending. At times I was expecting a romantic tragedy, especially with the pervading water themes used throughout the story.

The writing is good, the juicy sizzle-bits will satisfy the romantically minded. Graves shows great skill in writing romance that makes you wish you were a teenager again. Sigh. 

I'm sure young girls who enjoy ready romance that offers more depth than the formulaic Harlequin or M&B will enjoy this. It's currently only 99 cents which is good value for a book this long and this well written.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 67,000 (appx)
Author:Lisa Graves

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky

Blurb: After Soren, a young owlet, is pushed from his family's nest by his older brother, he's plucked from the forest floor by agents from a mysterious school, the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. When Soren arrives at St. Aggie's, he suspects there is more to the school than meets the eye. He and his new friend, the clever and scrappy Gylfie, find out that St. Aggie's is actually a training camp where the school's leader can groom young owls to help achieve her goal--to rule the entire owl kingdom.

Review by Dale

Wow! I original discovered this book as a preview for the film on a DVD I was about to watch. I was amazed by the stunning looking cgi effects and a few months later when I saw it for sale in my suns scholastic catalogue I bought it. I was of course curious to see how other authors handle storyies where the main characters are animals. A sly bit of research you might say.

So how can a book about elusive and almost creepy looking Owls be exciting? The truth is you soon get lost in the magic of the story and kind of forget that Soren and Gylfie, the two main characters,  aren't just two rascalous children. Kind of the same way Disney makes you feel about Simba in the lion king.

This story has its dark elements. There is death and lots of sadness. I had the same feelings when I read George Orwell's Animal Farm many years ago. A sort of sinister under story, that permeates through and makes you worry for the characters. I liken it to the spy who goes back under cover for 'one last mission'.

But they do manage to escape their captives of course or there wouldn't be fourteen more books in the series.  Although a few Owls don't make it, and its very sad when the good guys die. But there are so many secrets still to discover. A hallmark of great serialists like Lasky and Rawlings is the long slow boiling story that creeps through a series and only comes together in the final chapters. Thats what keeps me reading these books.   

As an aside note you also learn quite a bit about Owls reading this book. How their wings work and what they eat. Quite fascinating if you are interested in nature. I can see that Lasky has a very good knowledge of these birds, no doubt from years spent watching them.

So the verdict? I am already thinking about book two. Especially after the way this ends. Check it out, or watch the movie?

Format: Paperback Book
Available from Amazon
Guardians of Ga'hoole Boxed Set, Books 1-4Children's Bird Books)
Price: $16.00c (at time of review) 4 Book Box set
Wordcount: 220 pages
Kathryn Lasky

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jane Blonde the Perfect Spylet by Jill Marshall

Blurb: Janey Brown (aka Jane Blonde, Sensational Spylet)is in for a a shock when headmistress Mrs Halliday makes her and Alfie be prefects for the day, looking after the school's youngest kids. She thinks it's going to be a breeze, but it turns out to be a Prefect's nightmare.So Janey has to turn from Prefect to Perfect. The Perfect Spylet - a special mini-SPI story for Jane Blonde fans everywhere.

Reviewed by Dale

Once again snooping around the Barnes and Noble top 100 for teens and kids I found this little book. I wasn't in the mood for anything too long and at a light 12,000 words it looked just right. Its a wee bit off what I usually read, i think its targeted towards the 8-10 year old girls market. Plenty of girl driven action and a writing style that i think Enid Blyton would use if she was still alive and writing today. To be honest i found it a bit slow to start which is risky in a short story and i did have to re-read a few sections more than once as i lost the flow. That said i see a great imagination at work here and definitely a writer who has a good grasp of the age group for whom she is writing for.
The Jane Blonde character is a very un-typical school girl who leads the double life of all heroes in disguise. As well as a side kick (a spy cat no less) she has an array of fiendishly clever and very stylish spy gadgets. 
The writing is good, very polished and professional. The voice is well done and as stated above clearly targeted at the tween girl. Boys might be more interested in Marshall's other books the Dogface series. 
I wasn't aware as I set out to read this that it was just a short story to get readers interested in her other books in the series. I most likely wouldn't have read it if i had known that as i prefer to read fully fleshed out novels and novellas. The story in this book is much shorter than the advertised 12,000 words, as it also contains a teaser to another book half way through.  So if you have looked at the Jane Blonde series and weren't sure as to whether to spend the money, or you want an introduction to a great new author in 7000 words or less. Go grab this free copy and see what you think.

Age 8+ (Advanced vocab)
Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.00c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 12,000 (appx)
Author:Jill Marshall

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nostradormouse By Chris Tinniswood

Blurb: A dormouse awakens & utters a mysterious prophecy. In the centre of The Great Woods, an ancient tree receives some strange visitors. Rumours abound. Change is in the air. This is the age... of Nostradormouse. 

Reviewed by Dale

I was hunting around on Barnes and Noble looking for something to read and saw the cover for this little charmer. Catchy I thought and since my coin purse is feeling the pinch I jumped at the chance to read something popular (its in the top 100 I think) and free.

First lets get the moaning out of the way so we can get to the good stuff. There were a few too many typographical errors. Direct speech not on new paragraphs and some truncated sentences and the likes. Also my pet peeve, using too much narrative to tell the story. In fact since this great little story only clocks in at around 15,000 words it could have almost doubled that it the characters had been aloud more time 'on stage' as it were.

Ok so now on with the good bits. What a fantastic story, great imagination at play here, a jealous pang struck me enjoying this one. I think somewhere I read another reviewer drawing parallels with Aesop's fables, and I can see similarities but this is no rip off of a classic. This is fresh and original and highly entertaining. I can see this being an easy favourite in the eight years and up category. An unpredictable storyline, a nice easy build up with lots of intriguing foreshadowing of things to come. While it was short I couldn't help bonding with the hero, the young mouse on the cover. I really implore Tinniswood to re-look at this story and rework it in a dialogue driven story and at least 25,000 words. It would be awesome.

So go grab it! its great, its free, its easy to read!

Age 8+
Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.00c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 15,000 (appx)
Author:Chris Tinniswood

Monday, July 11, 2011

Realms of the Red Rabbit - Book 1 by Laura Eno

BlurbA spoiled, rich young woman is catapulted into an alternate universe because of an ancient legend. As she fights to find her way back home, she must adjust her way of thinking or remain trapped in the Realms for eternity. Along the way she learns the meaning of friendship, love and honor while struggling against the dangerous adversaries who are intent on keeping her there. 

Reviewed by Dale:

I guess it was the creepy emerald eyes that drew me to this as I shopped my way around looking for something to read. Another one of those books you collect on a whim and don't really know what to expect when you crack the spine and have at it. It was very early on in the piece that I realised I had discovered something out of the ordinary here. The writing was at once very fluid and prose like. Exceptional narrative that was almost a distraction in its elegance. I was amazed at how precise the writing was. 

The story develops quickly. Characters are immediately established with depth and personality. Hallmarks of great writing. Some words used in here threw me, I consider myself fairly well rounded in vocab, not up to Shakespeare's massive working catalogue but none the less I don't often see words I've never seen before. This novel got me more than once. I haven't seen the word miasma used this century in modern prose before. 

"The emotional buoyancy was a strong counterpoint to the endless days of trekking through unknown dangers." A classic example of the prose like narrative that flows throughout the book, making it a joy to read. I searched for information about this author but she hasn't got a bio posted on her blog or website that I found. I'm guessing she must have a classical or liberal arts background because the writing is just so polished.

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" -  I'm probably not the first to draw parallels with the famous poem Dante wrote. But the connection is obvious. The Nine Realms a direct correlation to the nine circles that the author (Dante) descends through. Representing the deadly sins greed, gluttony etc. I wasn't paying enough attention whilst ready Eno's book to determine the exact nature of each realm and it matters not. Its a separate story that stands on its own. A great imagination that constantly meant my coffee went cold as i lost hours absorbed in the story. I'll never look at pretty little butterflies quite the same way again. Especially the creepy blue ones.

Another obvious conclusion is the similarity to Alice in Wonderland. I'm not really convinced about that. Carol supposedly wrote that as a parody of modern (at the time) mathematics. Imaginary numbers weren't something he accepted and the mad hatters tea party was a nice ridicule of the 'change' required to accept them. The closest I think Eno comes is the moral lessons that Allyson comes to learn as she descends through the realms, being her message to the world. I think that has more substance than taking the mickey out of essential mathematics.

The ending was possibly the only weakness. Endings can be challenging and some of the biggest criticisms I've had on one of my books is the abruptness of the ending. In my case it was part one of a three part trilogy.
So, I see with satisfaction, a second book is available to read in the Red Rabbit series. I will endeavour to read and review one-day soon.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to DownloadHere
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)
Wordcount: 88,000 (appx)
Author:Laura Eno

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friends of Choice by Linda Nelson

Blurb: Karla's parents have sold the house and now she has to move. She hates the thought of moving to a new town. This will mean leaving her best friends behind. Her parents told her it was because of her Dad's job and Karla thinks they have not been fair to her. She wonders why she can't have a say in moving or where they are moving to. 

Reviewed by Dale:

This is a dark moral tale that provides a frank warning to unwary teens. In this case seventeen year old Karla Centen. Technically this story has a few challenges. There are a few loose sentences that a good editor or proof reader might help with. Chapter 20 was repeated as chapter 21, which seems like a very elementary editing mistake, i wonder why it hasn't been fixed nine moths after publication. Also as some other reviewers have pointed out the story doesn't have a lot of substance in the first few chapters. As a male I kept waiting for something to happen and it only did after two hundred pages. I almost felt as if the story was buying its time for the party scene at the end. I changed school many times as a youngster and I hated it. that gut wrenching feeling gnawing at your belly, the confusing sounds, different smells, so many new faces, classes and then the dreaded "Here's the new boy tell us about yourself" speech at the front of the class. Nelson could have brought those feelings flooding back, but failed to capitalise on the most significant part of the story prior to the ending. That and the relationship she had with her mother.

Typically, in a story we have characters and we develop our own feelings towards these characters. A good writer can make us love, hate loathe or adore the characters in their stories. With Karla I wasn't sure what to feel. She hated her mum, but the relationship on the page was quite shallow. Its like some things are barley hinted at, her mothers drinking for example, and other things Nelson almost bludgeons you with. (the girls snickering foreshadowing some sinister plan).

***Spoilers from here on***

I felt, I really felt for the poor girl when she was gang raped by a bunch of one dimensional characters we know nothing about. But what about her friend Carol? If she was such a whacked out junkie that all she cared about was her stash of drugs why wasn't that explored more over the length of the novel? Her actions seemed a little incongruous to me. Maybe that's how junkies really behave? The ending too was a little bit off. A reader wants an outcome. Carol got away scot free, as did the other three guys. I think another chapter could have worked here. Exploring Karla's return to school, facing her old friends and the consequences of the parties involved.

There is a moral here. I think we all know that misplaced trust and a desire to fit in as the new girl make someone an easy target. Is it a little heavy handed to warn teens off parties, alcohol and drugs with a pack rape, near fatal overdose and car accident? Maybe but I have kids too...

*** Spoilers end***

I guess the bigger question is what will teens take from this? Its all well and good how parents like me feel, but will the message get through?

It took me a long time to finish this book. Several weeks in fact. When i did finally finish it I was in two minds as to whether to review it or not. I'm still undecided about this one so I invite you to be the judge. If you do read it please leave your comments.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: $0.99c (at time of review)  
Wordcount: 44,000 (appx)
Author: Linda Nelson

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Adventures of Kid Combat Volume One: A Secret Lost By Christopher Helwink

Blurb: Kid Combat - the books used in schools around the United States - is now available everywhere! Evil. Corruption. They are everywhere in Elmcrest. In the first volume of this exciting series, Kid Combat's group struggles to open their new secret base, keep their identities a secret, and save one of their own from being kidnapped. Meanwhile, a trap is set, one that Kid Combat falls right into... 

Reviewed by Dale

Having just reviewed something that pushes the boundaries of Young Adult to the adult end of the genre I thought it time to try some thing a bit more tween friendly.  

The kid combat series has been pushing its way up the barnes and Noble top 200 list for young readers and with such a mysterious looking cover I couldn't hold off reading it any longer.

What Helwink has created here in his debut for the Kid Combat series is an exciting groundwork for a fantastic concept. The opening gambit jumps in, James Bond style, with Kid Combat neck deep in enemy territory, mission accomplished all that remains is escape. Escape from a highly fortified, highly guarded enemy strong hold. How does he do it? Well you will have to just read the book to find out. But it does involve some pretty slick writing and a great imagination on Helwink's part.

Often when writers set up stories that they know will be an ongoing series they needlessly bog the reader down with endless details setting the scene, filling in all the gaps and over fleshing the setting in the first book. Helwink doesn't fall into this trap and charges headlong into the adventure adding just enough detail as he goes to keep the story fluid. Some major elements only falling into place in the final chapters. The mysterious secret base known only as 'the playground'  being one such example. He also leaves plenty of questions unanswered, compelling reason enough to go find the other books in the series. "The Heist of Spring Road Toys" and "Jones Strikes Back".

Of course the ultimate hero is only convincing if he faces a truly powerful arch nemesis. So who is Kid Combat's Moriarty? His evil other half that plots to destroy the town that Kid lives in? The nasty Phillip Arthur Jones and his mewling minion number two fill the roles. Jones is a very believable villain, especially post recession.

Kid Combat isn't alone in his quest to rid Elmcrest of this malevolent menace. He is accompanied by the familiar band of sidekicks. There is the braining computer whiz, hacking military satellites and local power grids. The strong-willed and clever girl, the comedic twins and a raft of slick gadgets all helping Combat in his missions.

The most amazing thing about this series is the price. They are all free. Yes thats right you can download all three books in the series for absolutely no money down. Amazing. Suitable for eight years and up, but be warned exciting scenes may cause hearts to race and nails to be bitten. 

Look out for the other Kid Combat books reviewed on here soon.

Age 8+ (Advanced Readers)
Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: Free (at time of review)   Dont wait, Helwink might change his mind!
Wordcount: 32,000 (appx)
Author: Christopher Helwink

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Maisy May by Naomi Kramer

Blurb: How does an emo teen with an ex-druggie mum, a non-existent father and a penchant for fast cars fit into a traditional Aussie church? Why has the new boy, Mr Perfect Pastor's Kid, caused her to question every belief she holds dear? And why the sudden interest in Leviticus?

Reviewed by Dale

This book was very interesting, it was written by an Australian writer so the language was very close to my own version of spoken English here in New Zealand. Kramer has a great command of dialogue and I often marveled at how well her characters conversed with each other. It really did feel like you were a fly on the wall in Maisy's life sometimes.

The characters were all real, solid, gritty, you could almost smell them in the pages. The text was short so I didn't see a lot of growth in the characters, but definitely a lot of substance to them. I understand this is part one of a trilogy so would assume growth and character development will continue with the story. And there is plenty of story left in this tale.

I have read another famous Australian's works (John Marsden), author of the 'Tomorrow, when the War began' series and enjoyed the Australia he brought out in his writing. With Kramer we see another small Australian town's Australia. Only this time from the unique perspective of a christian emo.... A very original viewpoint I must say.

The Australians that I know are not known to mince words and are pretty straight shooters, so I'm not surprised at the style of the dialogue in this book. I was one told in a David Jones department store by an elderly woman shopper to 'Get outta the way you $%%# mongrel.' completely my fault I was walking all together too slowly through the place.

Yes this story is definitely more suitable to someone of at least sixteen years as opposed to the younger readers of my blog. A reasonable amount of  explicit sexual content (though not pornographic or out of context) and liberal use of swear words means I have to caution easly offended readers. For the rest of you adventurous souls out there this is a 'bonza good read me old muckers'.

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: US$0.99 (at time of review)
Wordcount: 29,000 (appx)
Author: Naomi Kramer

Summons from a Stranger by Debra Diaz

Blurb: Lindsey Sims is staying with her older sister's best friend, Rachel, while her parents are away on a trip to the Bahamas. Rachel Evans has received a mysterious letter from a man she's never met, but who is - in a way - part of her family. Lindsey accompanies Rachel as she reluctantly answers the summons, and is caught in a grown-up world of greed, jealousy, and attempted murder. It's more than she bargained for, but Lindsey is up to the challenge...and to discovering who is responsible for all the mischief. 

Reviewed by Dale

I'm back from a nasty cold and with some time to enjoy and share another great book. 

This time I wanted something very different. So delving through the shelves of freebies on offer I found this little gem. Summons from a Stranger by Debra Diaz.  A mystery in a classic Agatha Christie style setting. 

A large manor house, a butler (he didn't do it, but I did suspect him) the maid, and the vulgar rich. All bundled together in a claustrophobic house with a dying, bitter, patriarch.  A washed out bridge, electric storms and a pea soup fog all combine to build tension in the scene.

The writing is good, very evidently written by a women and not a man as the attention to details in some of the narrative parts are clearly more a women's taste than a mans. I know I need to know someone sat on a sofa, not how deep the stitching was or the upholstery clashed with someones french polish. None of this detracts from the book of course and if anything I would compare Ms Diaz's style to some of the Sidney Sheldon novels I have read. Much of this narrative does a great job in making you feel as though you were some silent observer standing in the shadows, watching, and listening to the events as they unfold.

The plot is well crafted, it takes a while to boil up but once the 'scream' starts of the adventure the pace is dramatic enough. Lots of red herrings and false clues make it difficult to piece together the best suspect. Always a sign of a well thought out structure. Again I take my hat of to mystery writers, its a challenging genre.

I kept thinking as I read that this story would sit equally well outside the Young Adult section if the main character were eighteen instead of fifteen perhaps. There is certainly no pandering to a younger reader here. So for all you boys and girls reading above your age go download a copy. For the eight to twelves of you out there, it might be a challenge managing all those characters and motives in your head. I found it difficult keeping them all straight in mine. So dont delay, its FREE so go add it to your library today!

Format: eBook
Available from Smashwords
Link to Download: Here
Price: FREE (at time of review)
Wordcount: 38,000 (appx)
Debra Diaz