Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Things To Do While Avoiding Things To Do: And 56 More Fun Lists for Procrastinators (Mark J. Asher)

Things To Do While Avoiding Things To Do: And 56 More Fun Lists for Procrastinators
Mark J. Asher
Amazon Digital Services
Nonfiction, Humor
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Procrastination. It's not just a word, it's a way of life. But even the best procrastinator runs out of ideas, forcing them to contemplate the horrendous alternative: productivity. To delay that terrible moment as long as possible, here are 56 lists sure to increase one's non-work output.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: It was a freebie download, and I'm an inveterate procrastinator myself, so this looked fun. Asher's lists, unfortunately, tend to be bland and repetitive, and not nearly as witty as advertized. I honestly cannot recall actually laughing at a single list or item. On the plus side, at least it read fast, and reading it helped me procrastinate on my own projects; that partial success earned it the extra half-star.

Monday, February 27, 2012

George Grove and the Dragon (LJ Lawry)

George Grove and the Dragon
(The George Grove series, Book 1)
LJ Lawry
The George Grove Project
Fiction, YA Fantasy
* (Terrible)

DESCRIPTION: Roddy and his two best friends, Dex and Gaz, have been inseparable since primary school... but, if Roddy's posh mother has her way, this will be their last summer together. She enrolled Roddy in St. Jude's, where he might make some worthwhile acquaintances to raise the family's status, while Dex and Gaz - both from "disadvantaged" homes - will attend the notoriously troubled George Grove school. The boys already have plans to work around that obstacle, utilizing Dex's peculiar ability to make others see what he wants them to see and Gaz's uncanny skill at slipping in and out of the most unusual places. In the meantime, they have another, far more interesting summer project to keep them together: a very strange egg, which hatched out a very strange lizard. It only eats petrol and other combustibles, and it has strange winglike growths on the back of its glittery-scaled body... but surely it's just some sort of exotic gecko. After all, dragons are like magic: neither exist in modern-day South London.
Or do they?
Meanwhile, among the hidden community of witches, elves, and other supernaturally-inclined people, a political schism moves toward outright war. The ICE has monitored and regulated travel between the mundane realm and the magical "third realm," source of ideas and inspiration for all Mankind, but squabbles over who should be permitted to cross - or even if the portals should remain open - threaten to tear the community apart. The harbingers of DoOM seek to stamp out the so-called "ordinary" magic that crops up in London's populace, refusing to contact (let alone train) new talents, and separate the third realm from humanity's corrupting influence. But doing so would plunge the mortal world into a death spiral, denying it the new ideas and opportunities that make life worth living.
Before long, Roddy and his friends - and their secret, special pet - find themselves at the heart of the struggle for the future of London... and the world.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: What can I say about a story whose three main characters are so utterly, unsympathetically stupid that they cannot recognize a fire-breathing dragon when it's sitting right in front of them? How can I possibly describe the mind-melting agony of a book that explores the stark, soul-crushing depths of inner city youth, then cheerily suggests that even the most abused and hardened soul can instantly blossom into a wonderful and loving human being after a plate of warm cookies and a nice heart-to-heart chat with a friendly face?
I don't know if I can, but a vague sense of duty compels me to try.
Roddy and his pals prove themselves, time and again, too dirt stupid to actually have a magical adventure. When they read that one of the only ways to control a growing dragon is a siren - which their sourcebook quite clearly describes as the beautiful singing woman of legend - they nevertheless persist in their delusion that only a police car siren will do the trick... a delusion that persists because Lawry practically breaks his back twisting the plot so that there's always a siren of some sort around whenever their dragon needs taming. As ridiculously dumb as they are, I don't suppose I can blame the story when it tires of them and wanders off down the street. By turns, it peers into the world of two dimwitted police officers, visits several teachers at George Grove (both magical and mundane), delves into the hellish worlds of several students, dawdles about in the downright silly "third realm" visiting the beings that live there... in short, it wanders all over South London and beyond, as though it had forgotten all about three boys trying to keep a growing rogue dragon under wraps in the heart of a modern city. In the end, what started as a light modern fantasy about London boys raising a baby dragon degenerates into a sledgehammer-subtle Message about the evils of modern education systems that value statistics and meaningless regulations over learning and imagination. Lawry cannot even bring the tale to a proper conclusion, leaving the whole story dangling on a cliffhanger.
When I finally reached that ending, after subjecting my poor and protesting brain to page after page of thick London slang, wondering just who had edited this atrocity and if they actively hated the reading public, I almost laughed out loud. I'd just about clawed my eyes out trying to finish this book; for what possible reason would I torture myself with a second one?

February Site Update

The previous 13 reviews are now archived and cross-linked on the main Brightdreamer Books website.

In other news, with luck I'll be upgrading to a newer computer in March; there may be an update disruption while I wrestle the new machine into submission.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Moonlighter's Guide to Online Writing for Immediate Income (Connie Brentford)

The Moonlighter's Guide to Online Writing for Immediate Income
Connie Brentford
Moonlight Media
Nonfiction, Business/Writing
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Most of us could use a little more money... or a lot more money. How can we generate extra income without tying ourselves to a second job? Many opportunities await, if you know where - and how - to look for them. The author, a professional freelance writer for many years, shares tips for finding legitimate jobs writing articles and other content online.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A short, informative ebook, The Moonlighter's Guide delivers exactly what the cover blurb promises: a number of ideas, helpful hints on getting started, and an extensive list of websites where would-be freelancers can find either more information or actual paying jobs. Brentford explains the various methods of earning money with online content - up-front pay, residual pay, and affiliate links - plus their pros and cons. She also touches on basic grammar, how to get started, and other things a newbie ought to keep in mind. Her list of sites might use more annotation, but considering the size of the guidebook (and the fact that I downloaded it during a freebie promotion window), I can't complain.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
(A Sherlock Holmes collection, Book 2)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Anthology/Mystery
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In this second collection, Doctor Watson relates more stories of his escapades with the singular detective Sherlock Holmes, ranging from a glimpse at his earliest cases to his fateful meeting with the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty.

REVIEW: Once more, while exposure to previous renditions no doubt colored my reading, I could still enjoy these tales for their original characters and the variety of crimes and criminals. It lost half a star because a couple stories felt over-talky, with one being entirely related via flashback. I also felt there ought to have been a little more build-up to a nemesis like Moriarty... especially one who proves so pivotal in Holmes' life and canon. (The fact that Doyle, likely for financial reason, bowed to public demand and resurrected his seminal detective for more stories also takes some of the bite of "The Final Problem.") Still, I enjoyed it overall.
(My reaction to "The Final Problem," I suspect, is strongly tainted by the many movies and other interpretations that build up Moriarty as a long-running antagonist... most notably the recent BBC Sherlock, whose second series finale blows Doyle's conclusion out of the water.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Rider's Call (Kristen Britain)

First Rider's Call
(The Green Rider series, Book 2)
Kristen Britain
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: After her traumatic adventures with the Green Riders of King Zachary - adventures involving magic, ghosts, monsters, and worse - Karigan G'ladheon tried returning to the life she'd left, that of a wealthy merchant's daughter. But the call of the Riders, the hoofbeats pounding through her dreams, refuses to release her so easily. Even the spirit of Lil Ambriodhe, first of the Green Riders, adds her voice to their summons... until Karigan wakes to find herself astride her horse Condor, halfway to the castle in Sacor City, clad only in her nightgown. Reluctantly, she finally cedes defeat, once more donning the golden brooch and green cloak.
She returns to a different city than the one she left. The Rider numbers are dwindling, their secret powers growing unreliable. The court of young King Zachary rumbles not just with the usual intrigues - alliances made and broken, ambitious lord- and lady-governors jockeying daughters for the bachelor ruler's favor - but with darker tales. The breach in the ancient D'yer Wall between Sacoridia and the cursed Blackveil Forest remains, the arts of repairing the magically-enhanced structure lost to the years, and through it dark influences spread over the land. Soon, the undead enemies of Sacoridia shall stir from their imprisoning tombs, bringing to bear powers that none alive know how to defeat. In desperation, Karigan must turn again to her strange bond with the spirit world... but can even the ghost of Lil Ambriodhe save the kingdom from a thousand-year-old evil?

REVIEW: A worthy enough sequel to a good fantasy, First Rider's Call picks up some time after the first book ended. Britain includes enough refreshers in the narrative to bring readers back into her world and its many characters... enough that new readers might even be able to enjoy it. This tale, like the first, has a few lulls in the action, but not enough to derail the story. The history of Sacoridia and the force behind the Blackveil come into play, as does the reason for Karigan's strange bond with Lil Ambriodhe's spirit; both are related without excessive infodumps. Britain builds a world that is both familiar and unique, putting some nice original touches on the usual quasi-medieval fantasy realm. As for the characters, they did their jobs, and were mostly rounded enough to genuinely care about... and if Karigan grew a bit irritating by refusing to accept what's laid out in front of her, well, it's hardly the worst case of Plot-Extending Stubbornness I've ever read. While, of course, there's every hint of a third book, enough wraps up here that I could walk away satisfied. I suppose I ought to keep an eye peeled for Book 3 next time I visit Half Price Books...

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Dragon Box (Katie W. Stewart)

The Dragon Box
Katie W. Stewart
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: James didn't want to go over to Mack's house. Everyone knew he was a crazy old man - who else would have a secret cat zapper in their yard? But Mum had been a friend of his since childhood, and wanted James to return a book she'd borrowed. As it turns out, Mack's nothing like the mean codger neighborhood rumor makes him out to be. Instead, he fancies himself an eccentric inventor - a modern-day mad scientist of sorts, with inventions ranging from a hologram projector to an unreliable remote-controlled door lock. Before he leaves, Mack gives the boy a strange gift: a little metal box that he claims is a computer game, even though it has no screen and no plug-in ports and only a single button. Dubiously, James presses the button... and finds himself in a strange world. A wizardly copy of old Mack informs the boy that he's inside a very special computer game; real as it seems, he can't come to any lasting harm, and he even has an emergency escape switch. But any game is prone to glitches, and James soon realizes that the quest to save an imaginary kingdom from a wicked witch might have dire real-world consequences.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: There seem to be two types of children's book authors in the world. One remembers the wonders and terrors of childhood and gleefully embraces them, respecting their readers enough not to water things down or bubble-wrap the corners. The other shrinks in fear of perpetually traumatizing unformed minds, constantly coddling their audience and shining a flashlight into every nook and cranny while reassuring them in loving whispers that "it's just a story, it's all just a story." (Well, to be honest, there are three types - the type that sees how hot the young adult market is and wants to dip their bucket into the golden river regardless of what their target audience needs or wants - but I digress.) Stewart fits neatly into the second category.
The story starts promisingly, establishing James as a picked-on boy trying to deal with a paraplegic father (formerly a professional soccer player) while being unable to live up to his own unrealistic expectations of himself. The kindly old man's strange game offers him a chance to develop self-confidence and problem-solving skills... and herein lies the problem. The story becomes a thinly-veiled Lesson for James, tromping from problem to problem and never failing to let James triumph. At this point, it becomes nothing but a Fluffy Bunny story. Everyone's nice except for one or two bad guys, nothing particularly dangerous or troublesome thwarts the heroes, and the only person who doubts there'll be a happy ending is James himself. The fact that James's mother once played the same game adds an unintentionally creepy factor; has Mack been stalking the family, or is there something special about them that makes them ideally suited to his experimental full-immersion games? I don't know, and I don't expect the author does, either, as no real explanation is offered. (I'd suspect a series, but the game world seems far too customized and lightweight to support it... not that Fluffy Bunny stories concern themselves overmuch about such things.)
Fortunately, I downloaded it during a freebie promotion window, or it would've lost another half-star.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling)

Captains Courageous
Rudyard Kipling
Public Domain Books
Fiction, YA? Adventure/General Fiction
* (Terrible)

DESCRIPTION: Young Harvey Cheyne, son of an American business goliath, never knew a day of poverty or hardship in his life. Raised by an overprotective mother and absentee father, his pockets fairly bulging with his overgenerous allowance, he saw his future set before him on a gilded platter. While traveling to Europe for a dose of Continental education, Harvey falls overboard into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A cod-fisher snags him in his dory, bringing him back to the Gloucester schooner "We're Here." Nobody believes his grandiose claims of wealthy (and grateful) parents waiting to receive him. Out here, he's just another body on a vessel with no room for idlers. During the ensuing summer, the spoiled young Harvey learns more about people and life than he has at any of his fancy schools.

REVIEW: An object lesson in how to bore and alienate an audience, Captains Courageous wallows and drifts like a waterlogged dory. The narrative, thick with sailing terms and thin on explanations, hardly cares whether or not the reader is intimately familiar with nautical lore. Likewise, the dialog demonstrates how aggravating it is when an author writes exclusively in near-phonetic dialect; English itself becomes a foreign language when rolling off the tongues of New England sailors. Things appeared to happen, as often as not without significantly affecting Harvey (his growth from spoiled brat to sure-footed sailor boy happens largely by implication), but for the life of me half the time I couldn't figure out what, let alone why I should care. I came closer to giving up on this story than I have in many a moon. Unfortunately, my persistence went unrewarded as I slogged through a boring, overlong ending which only confirmed the racial, ethnic, and social stereotypes that ran rampant through the whole thing. (Normally, I cut older books more slack in this department, but I was disgruntled enough at this point not to bother here.) Despite being a free-for-Kindle public domain download, I nevertheless walked away convinced I'd overpaid.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scriber (Ben S. Dobson)

Ben S. Dobson
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Scriber Dennon Lark once swore an oath to preserve and promote knowledge, to never let the history of the Kingsland be forgotten... but, for the past five years, he's been hiding from his own past. In pursuit of the lost Archives, hidden since the terrible book-burnings of the Forgetting, he destroyed a priceless religious site and saw nine workmen crushed to death. Once the brightest prodigy of the Scriber Academy, now he hides in the obscure hamlet of Waymark, surrounded by superstitious peasants and unlettered fools, hoping the world will forget he ever lived.
When Bryndine Errynson rode into town, those hopes were dashed forever.
The populace call her the Bloody Bride, rumored to have slain her would-be husband. The pious Children decry her as a blasphemy, a woman who studies the manly art of warfare. The aristocracy considers her a disgrace. But she takes her oaths to defend the people of the Kingsland every bit as seriously as Dennon once took his Scriber's oath, whether or not the people wish to be protected by her. She and her band of women warriors seek the Burners, a loosely-organized band of rebels harrying the good folk of the land and making fools of King Synid's soldiers. Dark whispers of sorcery, of the legendary earth-spirits known as the Wyddin and the long-denounced powers of ancient Sages, surround them - but no sensible Scriber believes in magic.
At least, Dennon Lark never did. Until the Burners strike Waymark... and he hears the malevolent, whispering voices in the air, whispers nobody else hears. They scream in anger. They scream in pain. And, if Dennon and Bryndine cannot unravel their secrets, they will see the Kingsland and every human in it burnt to ashes.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A competent tale, Scriber wastes little time on setup before plunging the reader into the characters and the story. Dobson establishes a decently-rounded world, more than sufficient for this broad-ranging adventure. The characters tend toward archetypes, but each have their flaws and strengths, some more detailed than others. Dennon Lark, who narrates the tale (and offers pre-chapter contributions from his journals and other writings), borders on Plot-Extending Cowardice (an offshoot of Plot-Extending Stupidity) more than once; though he hears the voices from his first encounter with the Burners, he's too chicken to mention this very important experience until about halfway through. He also needs to get smacked in the face on occasion to stop picking on past mistakes... and he does, as other characters thankfully do what I, as a mere reader, could not. The tale clips along at a fair pace, with a few lulls quickly counterbalanced by bursts of action. Having grown used to multi-book fantasies, I was relieved to find that Dobson wrapped his story up in one volume, with a fittingly epic climax. After some iffy selections, I enjoyed losing myself in a well-written adventure.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unconventional Ways to Earn an Income (Ruth I)

Unconventional Ways to Earn an Income
Ruth I
Amazon Digital Services
Nonfiction, Business
** (Bad)

DESCRIPTION: Looking to pick up some extra cash? Don't have a college degree? Don't have the time or the experience to land a better job? The author outlines several opportunities available, today, in your community. Work at your own pace, on your own time, and earn hundreds of extra dollars every month!
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: When the first page contains numerous grammatical errors, it's never a good sign. This book reads very fast - under an hour, in my case - largely because there isn't much there to read. Nearly half of the book simply repeats things mentioned in previous sections, with several unhelpful charts stuck in for little to no reason. To her credit, the author does, indeed, mention some different income streams, but all of them center around becoming a Certified Field Associate for a specific handful of websites. Something about the slapdash feel of this eBook makes me wary of investigating them without a second (or third) opinion on their effectiveness, not to mention their legitimacy. Fortunately, since I downloaded it during a limited-time freebie promotion, I'm not out any money for the scant information I found.
(EDIT - Evidently, this title and author have vanished from Amazon. Very suspicious...)

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Anne of Green Gables
(The Anne of Green Gables series, Book 1)
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Public Domain Books
Fiction, YA General Fiction
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: When the aging Cuthbert siblings, Marilla and Matthew, needed a young helper for their small farm, they figured a boy from a nearby orphan asylum would fit the bill perfectly. A neighbor was adopting a girl from there; it shouldn't be too much trouble for her to pick out a likely lad while she was at it. But Matthew receives a shock when he drives his buggy into town and finds instead a thin, redheaded chatterbox of a girl waiting.
Eleven-year-old Anne Shirley, an orphan since before she could recall, grew up in a succession of poor homes before winding up at the asylum in Nova Scotia. With a head full of wild fancies and a tongue full of big words, saddled with a temperament every bit as fiery as her braids, she fills the farm of Green Gables with unaccustomed chaos. Despite their better judgement, the Cuthberts find themselves growing fond of their mischosen waif, even as she worms her way into the very heart of the rural, conservative township of Avonlea.

REVIEW: A staple of most childhood libraries, I figured it was high time I introduced myself to the iconic Anne. She is, indeed, a memorable character, filling page after page with nonstop chatter and childhood antics. Frankly, more than once I wished she'd shut up, or at least leave off the melodramatics. So deeply does she delve into her imaginative ramblings and poetic ponderings that she scarcely seems capable of dealing with the real world, save as an unfortunately uncooperative story. Irritating as her flights of fancy sometimes grew, beneath it lay a wounded soul, ill-used by life, who had consciously transformed herself into a Pollyanna warrior rather than concede defeat. By the end, somehow, she manages to develop a relatively mature outlook on life, but the transformation is far from smooth, and - given her extreme aversion to reality at the outset - pushes the boundaries of believability. The town of Avonlea, situated on Prince Edward Island, is lovingly and lyrically realized by Montgomery, with a familiarity that only a native could manage; the townsfolk of Anne's world, however, tend to be simplified folk, more or less always destined to be friends with the dreamy-eyed redhead. The story meanders like a country brook, in no rush to reach its end, with only a few spurts of bubbles and rapids (aside from those concocted by Anne's dramatically-inclined imagination.) Not the worst book I've read by far, it nonetheless felt too light and nostalgic to truly engage me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D. (Rudyard Kipling)

With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.
Rudyard Kipling
University of Toronto Libraries
Fiction, Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In a world where dirigibles are as common as carriages, where war itself has been rendered obsolete, take a memorable journey across the Atlantic with a postal flight. Included with this tale are advertisements and articles from the contemporary periodical where it appeared.

REVIEW: This one lost out on a solid Good by a proverbial gnat's wing. One of the first sci-fi stories that relied on immersion (dribbling bits of information through the text) rather than infodumping (stopping the narrative dead in its tracks to explain itself to the reader), it feels surprisingly modern for such an inherently dated story. Kipling obviously took his time, mapping out the technology and the future world of the story - even allowing for changed cultural attitudes on gender, religion, and nationalities. The tech-intensive dirigibles would fit right in with today's steampunk resurgence. The articles and advertisements at the end add to the milieu of his "future." Unfortunately, the main story itself (which only covers half of the book) lacks a point. It partially succeeds as a "slice of life" glimpse into a blimp-dominated retro-future world, but the characters are too thin to care about and the technobabble gets a bit thick now and again. On the whole, it's highly imaginative and well crafted. If the actual story had been more interesting, I'd have gladly boosted the rating.
(To be honest, I found myself thinking that With the Night Mail would make a great basis for a steampunk role-playing game; this is the kind of thing game makers used to throw in with game manuals, back before a good, mood-setting game manual became a lost art in the industry. It's by a known author, it plays into a modern trend, and it's public domain... come on, programmers! Make it happen!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Crimson-Eyed Dragon (D. M. Trink)

The Crimson-Eyed Dragon
D. M. Trink
Fiction, YA Mystery
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Aside from playing World of Warcraft, hanging out at the mall, and learning to drive, Jared had no big plans for his summer break. Helping his mother haul a desk to an antique store for refurbishing, he finds himself captivated by a silver dragon statue with gleaming red eyes. He wasn't going to buy it, but when he picked it up, one of its jeweled eyes fell out - almost as if it wanted him to have to take it home. In his room, trying to figure out how to fix it, Jared notices a hidden trigger behind the missing eye. Soon, he and his friends are neck-deep investigating the secrets of the dragon statue and its former owner, an investigation that draws some unwanted attention from unsavory strangers. Jared's lazy summer turns out to be far more interesting - and far more dangerous - than he could've dreamed!

REVIEW: A modern attempt at a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew-type teen mystery, this book squanders a nice setup with weak writing and just plain unbelievable dialog. Trink tries to write Jared's teen world as a teen would experience it, but ends up sounding more like an adult trying to "speak teen." Jared calls his mother by her full name. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but here in the 'States, kids refer to their mothers as Mom (or a variant thereof,) unless there's a very compelling reason to do otherwise (strained relationship, estrangement, stepmother, or so forth,) none of which apply here. He and his friends also trade unnatural dialog filled with words such as "abscond." (Do modern teenagers, especially in the texting age, really use "abscond" in casual conversation with each other?) The investigation itself stalls out frequently for side-trips to unrelated pool parties and meet-ups with friends, with at least one multi-page infodump on Asian dragon traditions that contributed nothing to the story (except to prove that Trink has access to a library and/or the Internet, and did research on the subject.) The bad guys have no deeper motive, no connection to the dragon-guarded treasure or the statue's deceased owner; they're dimwitted, quick-cash thugs, plain and simple, as evinced by their incredibly unimaginative monikers Sal and Eddie. It all wraps up with an overlong epilogue.
Granted, I've never read the original Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, but I cannot believe they'd be such enduring classics if they had been written this awkwardly. While I could see the story Trink wanted to tell, their skill level simply wasn't equal to the task. I'm just as glad I found it as a free-for-Kindle download.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Words to Write By (Elaine L. Orr)

Words to Write By
Elaine L. Orr
Lifelong Dreams
Nonfiction, Writing
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: You have ideas for stories, for articles, even for that memo you've been meaning to write to your boss. Every time you try to set your thoughts down, however, things go wrong. The words come out in a jumble, ideas are repeated or lost... you just can't seem to figure out how to even organize what you want to say. The author breaks down the writing process into simple steps, from gathering ideas and information to giving your writing its final polish on the way out to the Real World.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A freebie download, this eBook makes a good introduction to the subject if you've never read another how-to-write book. Orr condenses the usual information, streamlining the process so that anyone - whether they want to write a 1000-page tome or a 1-page article - can easily digest it. Will this book alone make you into a stellar communicator? Probably not - you'll likely want to pick up a supplemental book or two, to fill in information lost during the streamlining process. But it's short, it reads fast, and it's a decent place to start.