Indie eBook Roundup #5

Welcome to the fifth installation of the Indie eBook Roundup! We’ve got a couple really good ones here for you and a few others that might be worth your time. The last two on our list, in particular, are pretty stellar reads for fans of their particular genres. And if you’re looking for a couple titles that will get you thinking, check out the second and third books on this week’s list.

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17169157Title: Dark Spell
Author: Gill Arbuthnott
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: Floris Books
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Young Adult, possibly Middle Grade, Fantasy, YA Fantasy, MG Fantasy

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

This book gets some initial points for having a really nice cover. It’s currently on my homepage on NetGalley every time I sign in and every time I see it I just feel like I’m drawn to the cover. I don’t know why. It’s very basic and very simple and yet it’s impactful all the same. So, that was pretty good design work.

Now, the book itself is a little less impactful. It wasn’t a bad story or anything. It was just a very plain, average, and unremarkable come-of-age story where a young woman discovers she’s got magical powers and struggles to deal with that revelation. In a post-Harry Potter world I think most readers just expect more from authors when they are broaching such an obvious and overdone topic. In the case of Cassie and Dark Spell, the author seemed more inclined to play it safe. Cassie’s characterization is fairly common – she’s always been the odd one out and now she’s even more odd and out there once she comes into her powers.

I suppose some of the stuff that sets the story apart is the setting (but even then Harry Potter is set primarily in Scotland, too) and the relationship between Cassie and her friend Josh. I actually like Josh a lot and I like the idea of having a character as a friend whose not always able to be there. Josh only visits during the summer and admits that he’s a pretty unremarkable guy himself – especially when he is back at home. I thought that was a very interesting character insight. How many people can admit that they are different people at different times and places? Most kids don’t get that no matter how true it is.

Over all, the plot progresses pretty quickly and it’s a satisfying read if nothing else. I feel like there could have been a bit more just ‘ompfh’ to the story in general but I wasn’t disappointed by what happened. I didn’t feel like anything fundamental was missing. The resolution was good and I thought things wrapped up well enough. I had some questions at the end still, I suppose, but I don’t think they were really important to the story. There were just things I might have liked to know more about if the author had taken the time to expand on them.

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17822351Title: Broken Angels
Author: Harambee K. Grey-Sun
Release Date: April 17, 2013
Publisher: HyperVerse Books
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, sort of Urban Fantasy

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

I don’t know how to feel about this book. I’m being perfectly honest here. When i was reading it I kept trucking through not necessarily out of a sense of obligation per se but I don’t know. I felt like I needed to know how it ended and to know where the story was going so I couldn’t just outright abandon it. But at the same time it took a bit too much of a sort of weird turn and I just wasn’t all that into it. Anything that’s considered ‘metaphyiscal’ has a hard time keeping my attention. So Broken Angels gets some credit for compelling me to finish it.

This is another one of those books that I’m glad to see fits squarely into the growing ‘New Adult’ genre. The main character, Robert, is one of a growing number of people who have been infected by a very strange STD that – if it doesn’t kill you like it does so many of those it infects – it changes you fundamentally. You remain contagious and also develop some pretty strange powers like manipulating light and shifting into a parallel sort of universe. As you can imagine, after a while, some strange things happen in society based around this whole concept. You’ve got people thinking these powers make them angels, government agencies recruiting those with the disease to use them for their own means, and homegrown terrorist groups organizing around their own compelling interests.

A lot happens in this book and a lot get explained which is kind of nice. The author really thought through his disease and the powers it imbues. The problem I had with the book, though, was that the pace was pretty slow and there were a lot of times when it just sort of got too bogged down in trying too hard to be all kinds of scientific, thoughtful, philosophical, and what not. By trying to force all that it just sort of didn’t quite get there.

That said, the author has a fantastic story idea on their hands here. I mean, fantastic. The world building was good and I imagine that future books in this series might be even better. Unfortunately, I could also see them being predictable. Only time will tell, really. Which means, you should read this book yourself and make develop your own opinions. Just because this book wasn’t my kind of book that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. But if you’re also a bit hesitant to start up a book like this then you might want to skip it because it might just not be for you.

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14656479Title: Adam Orser
Author: Daniel Armand
Release Date: April 2, 2012
Publisher: Two Harbor Press
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Paranormal

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

Adam Orser was a pretty okay read, all things considered. It had a great premise and I think the author did a pretty good job of getting the story from point A to point B. It was a bit unpolished and could have probably stood on it’s own without the need for any sort of planned sequels. The title was a bit unimaginative but I guess to each his own.

The book follows the titular character, Adam Orser, as he struggles to adjust to living in two different worlds. A renown psychiatrist, Adam is living a pretty charmed life in the beginning. He’s in love and planning to propose to his girlfriend, Jazmin. Then everything changes in an instant and Adam finds himself trapped in a coma. But he’s not locked in or anything like that. He finds himself consumed by a separate universe where his destiny becomes intertwined with that with a kidnapped little girl that he’s charged with rescuing. It’s a really great concept and one that Adam himself struggles with remarkably in the book. There are a lot of questions about faith, destiny, love, purpose, and existence in this book.

Adam Orser tackles a lot of tough, self-reflective, philosophical issues and I think the story does that well enough. I wasn’t really that interested in the characters themselves, though, which hurt a lot in trying to get me through the book. Adam had decent development but I found sort of the concept behind the story more interesting than I found him at times. The plot development at least seemed to come pretty easily and it kept me engaged throughout even when I found myself drifting.

All in all, pretty decent book. The editing in the version I read was lacking but I guess I can’t say too much about that since that’s more on the publisher than the author, I tihnk. They could have gone the extra step and made sure someone went through and fixed some of that stuff up. If you can ignore that and you don’t mind the heavy topics broached by the book, you’ll probably enjoy it.

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17171950Title: Through the Door
Author: Jodi McIsaac
Release Date: April 21, 2013
Publisher: 47North
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult, Celtic Mythologh

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

I always appreciate books that don’t try too hard to make their main characters instantly likable. That’s not to say that there is any reason you shouldn’t like Cedar (other than the fact that her name is Cedar, maybe) except that I found her a fairly relateable, realistic character. Cedar was a fairly developed every day mother whose forced into situations she probably never even dreamed she would find herself in. I mean, she’s not the only single mother out there whose lover walked out on her and left behind a fatherless child. But Cedar has done her best to raise her daughter, Eden.

The problem is that as Eden grows up it becomes clear that the little girl is more than just a little girl. All of a sudden Cedar’s precious daughter develops the power to open doors into alternate worlds where the full force of Celtic mythology comes out in full force. That was a nice little change. Yeah, fantasy stories set in the United Kingdom come around all the time but this one seems to go that extra mile. Of course, since I know absolutely nothing about Celtic mythology I could be entirely wrong about that. The point is that I appreciated it at least. And it was interesting to see how things worked out and how Cedar handled everything. I mean, it’s not often you find yourself – and your child – caught up in some crazy magical power play.

One problem that I had was the lack of development for certain characters that probably should have been more important. For a story told from more than one point of view in the third person I feel like that sort of oversight should have been avoided but it might have been because of the fact that they were covering a lot of ground. Though things wrap up all right, I guess, it’s clear that there is more of a story to be told. And that will come in the next book. Because as is the trend lately we can’t have standalone books any more.

Over all, great story and well worth the read. And, honestly, the blurb for the upcoming sequel seems really, cool, too. Maybe even more so than this book!

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17046614Title: Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders
Author: Richard Ellis Preston Jr.
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: 47North
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Steampunk, Science Fiction

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

I have a hard time believing that this book got snapped up by Amazon’s in-house sci-fi/fantsy publisher, 47North, and not someone else because, man. This is a really solid read. It’s hardcore steampunk in the truest fashion except that it dispenses with a lot of the usual conventions which is really nice. I think that fans of the genre will really enjoy it. I’m still getting into steampunk and so I’m surprised that I’ve managed to get into it as well as I have been.

Set in a future were much of the world has become something of a state-less wasteland run the likes of which is quite easy to conceive thanks to the author’s fantastic world building. I will admit that at times there are a few moments where it feels like there is a bit too much information being streamlined through but for the most part it’s pretty easy to understand and the author paints a really good picture of what he’s trying to get across. You can really visualize the technology, the crazy creatures, and the incredible events that come to pass in these wonderfully imaginative settings. “Snow World” – which effectively a ruined Southern California post alien invasion (and subsequent steampunk revival) – has a sort f lame name, yeah, but don’t let that deter you. This is no Waterworld. Romulus Buckle leads you and his crew on a daring rescue mission and along the way you just get wrapped up in all the stuff that happens. It’s great. It’s fun.

And the characters are actually pretty well developed. No one is too cookie cutter and their motivations are all their own. You don’t have to deal with just the usual rank and file from the steampunk tropes here. If at any point the story starts to seem a bit too slow for you (and the beginning is a bit hard to get into at first which is something even I’ll admit) then you really just need to set your sights on the character development pay off I promise will come and power through. The slow pace and emphasis on explaining things in the beginning are kind of necessary when you’re establishing a world like this and the world or Romulus Buckle deserves the effort. I’m sure it’ll be even more worth it when you can skip over some of that in subsequent books and those books can keep on moving forward. The second book is already out apparently which I didn’t know and now I really want to skip a few other books in my queue and get to the sequel a bit sooner.

So, final thoughts: If you’re a steampunk fan getting super tired of the stereotypical Victorian settings than consider picking up this book. It’s a nice change of pace. Granted, the whole alien thing might seem like a bit much but trust me. You won’t mind it at all. Get into it because it’s a pretty cool book. And the rest of the series has a whole lot of potential, too.