Sunday, September 30, 2012

Writer's Block: The How-To Survival Guide for Writers (Larnette Phillips)

Writer's Block: The How-To Survival Guide for Writers
Larnette Phillips
Amazon Digital Services (?)
Nonfiction, Writing
* (Terrible)

DESCRIPTION: An author offers advice, exercises, and more to help writers overcome obstacles and get published.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: I don't expect it's a coincidence that this title has apparently vanished after being offered as a freebie download. (It vanished before I could even confirm the publisher - never a great sign.) This isn't so much an eBook as a collection of unfinished notes. With terrible, confused formatting and little to no logical flow of ideas, I barely managed to crawl through to the end. The slapdash air made me question much of her advice, and I can't say I feel reassured after a quick Amazon search of the author's other published works. There's nothing here that cannot be learned from other sources - even free sources. If it ever turns up online again, don't waste your time.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Secrets to Writing Your First eBook and Getting It Online (Haphiza Baboolal) - My Review
You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) (Jeff Goins) - My Review
Slow Your Prose (James W. Lewis) - My Review

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September Site Update

The previous 6 book reviews are now archived and cross-linked on the main website at Brightdreamer Books.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke)

Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster
Marcus Duke
Galleon Publishing
Nonfiction, General Nonfiction
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, riots... No matter where you are, chaos is only one disaster away. It's not a matter of if, but when. Whether it's a temporary disaster or a major national or global collapse, a little preparation can go a long ways toward ensuring your safety, health, and survival. The author explains the basics of disaster preparedness, and the things everybody should have on hand just in case the worst happens.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: This book is exactly what it states it is: a very basic primer in how to survive during troubled times. In truth, it's more of an introduction than a complete reference on its own. Duke explains a few basics - several ways to purify water, for instance, and the necessity of fire in any situation - but refers the reader elsewhere for more in-depth discussions. He stops short of "armed bunker in the hills" territory, keeping most of his advice practical for the average person needing to survive the average interruption in civilization (such as that caused by natural disasters.) It's short, and it reads fast, with some interesting information that more of us should probably be thinking about.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco) - My Review
Guts (Gary Paulsen) - My Review
Life as We Knew It (Susan Beth Pfeffer) - My Review

Monday, September 24, 2012

Aftershock (S. A. Archer and S. Ravynheart)

(The Rise of the Unseelie series, Book 1)
S. A. Archer and S. Ravynheart
Ravynheart Publishing
Fiction, Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: In the hidden fey realm of the Mounds, miles underground, the long struggle between Light and Dark, Seelie and Unseelie, has finally ended. But some forces cannot be reconciled, and some unions bring only disaster. Jhaer, ruler of the Unseelie Elite, tried to warn his people of the fatal consequences, but nobody wanted to hear... until the Mounds collapsed and the All-Mother perished, a catastrophe that Jhaer alone survived.
On the Earth's surface, Jhaer vows he will not be the last of his people. Learning to sustain himself via ley lines, he is reborn as Donovan, determined to unite fey exiles and half-breeds in a new Sidhe court. It won't be easy - most have no training, and predators, from vampires to wizards, constantly prey on their undefended magic - but survival never is... and Jhaer-turned-Donovan is nothing if not a born survivor.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A short story kicking off a new urban fantasy series, Aftershock wastes little time on setup, plunging the reader straight into the fall of the Mounds and the doomed struggle of Jhaer to save even his enemies from utter destruction. Nevertheless, despite the traumas I witnessed Jhaer endure, I never felt a connection with him, or with any of the other characters. Things happen, but with minimal follow-through. Characters are introduced, but never stay in view long enough to care about. The whole story reads like a movie preview or a series of internet clips, enough to provide a taste of the action without absorbing the audience. As a stated introduction to a new series, by the end I should've been invested in the characters and the mytharc. Instead, I barely knew the characters, and the mytharc left me indifferent. While I've read far worse, this is a series that can unwind without me.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer) - My Review
Faerie Wars (Herbie Brennan) - My Review
Bedlam's Bard (Mercedes Lackey with Ellen Guon) - My Review

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any (Erik Wecks)

How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any
Erik Wecks
Erik Wecks, publisher
Nonfiction, Finance
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Money problems plague most every household, even those who seem to have it all. Debt has become an acceptable way of life for too many people, who willingly trade future financial disaster for immediate relief. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or an accounting degree to figure out that you can't get out of a financial hole if you keep digging, but in today's economy, with a weak job market and stagnant wages, there's no other way to get by. Or is there? Backed by years of professional and personal experience, Wecks offers real solutions for real people - solutions that don't promise yachts or mansions, but the even greater reward of financial freedom.

REVIEW: Like many people, I struggle to get the most out of my paychecks without sinking into the black hole of debt. Like the author, I've looked at the programs offered by those financial gurus you see on TV and found myself alienated: I don't make enough to play the investment games they often teach, and I just can't buy the implied promise of diamonds and gold awaiting me if I only follow their plans. Wecks wrote this book, as the title implies, for those of us who simply want help keeping our heads above water in a world that increasingly accepts the indentured servitude of endless debt as just part of living the American dream. There are no pie-in-the-sky offers to grant untold wealth to part-time cashiers or erase bad habits in thirty seconds flat. Financial stability takes hard work, not to mention a complete overhaul of one's relationship with money. Every once in a while, the writing gets a little too clever for its own good, and occasionally it repeats itself, but overall I found it informative and helpful.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Stash Your Swag - 100+ Secret Hiding Places (Tarrin P. Lupo) - My Review
The Laws of Money, the Lessons of Life (Suze Orman) - My Review
Making a Living Without a Job (Barbara J. Winter) - My Review

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A SURVIVAL GUIDE: Living with Dinosaurs in the Jurassic Period (Dougal Dixon)

A SURVIVAL GUIDE: Living with Dinosaurs in the Jurassic Period
Dougal Dixon
Smart Business Press
Nonfiction, Dinosaurs
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Studying fossils and geology can only teach a person so much about the ancient past. What would it really have been like, to actually walk the world millions of years ago, seeing long-extinct animals roaming an unrecognizable landscape full of unfamiliar plants? As part of a hypothetical team of time-traveling colonizers, embark upon an unforgettable journey to an alien world: the Jurassic age on planet Earth.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: An interesting concept, it attempts to take the dry science out of paleontology. Unfortunately, Dixon starts out on a bad foot by nearly drowning the reader in the dry science of plate tectonics, followed by repetitive "journeys" to the chosen colony spot (the Morrison formation of North America) from various parts of the world - all of which only repeated the facts stated in the previous chapter, that global geography in the Jurassic was radically different from modern times. Over the course of the book, the dense sediments of science slowly sank to the bottom, leaving the original concept - understanding the Jurassic age in human terms, and learning how to extract the building blocks of civilization from what is essentially alien soil - to shine through. The included illustrations probably looked better in color, though they were helpful in clarifying some points made in the text; I actually would have liked more of them. In the end, I found it to be an intriguing idea, if occasionally slow.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Dinosaurs (Carl Mehling, editor) - My Review
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs (Dr. David Norman) - My Review
Pterosaurs: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Flying Reptiles (Dr. Peter Wellenhoffer) - My Review

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Abarat (Clive Barker)

(The Abarat series, Book 1)
Clive Barker
Fiction, YA Fantasy
** (Bad)

DESCRIPTION: Candy Quackenbush lives in the most boring town in Minnesota - the encyclopedias in the library even confirm it. Aside from being the top producer of chicken meat, Chickentown holds no other points of interest... and Candy has one more day to finish her class assignment of finding ten "interesting" things about the place. She hates this place, just as she hates her life, living in this nowhere town with an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother too cowed to defend her own offspring. There must be more to look forward to than an eternity of this!
After failing her assignment, Candy finally snaps. She runs out on school, on home, on the town itself, heading into the trackless prairie grasses - and straight into the path of a very peculiar fellow. John Mischief is eight brothers in one, with seven little heads atop antlers sprouting from his skull. Through him, Candy finds herself pulled into a strange and magical world, the archipelago of Abarat. She always wanted to leave dreary old Chickentown behind her, but Abarat is no Wonderland. Danger lurks behind every wonder, and some of the attention she attracts could well be the death of her.

REVIEW: When modern galleries feature bizarre items in their displays, such as urinals or trash cans, people often ask: is it really art? Its presence in an art gallery would appear to qualify it as art, even if often it seems unrecognizable as such. Likewise, as I read Abarat, I found myself constantly wondering if it was really a story; the fact that it appears to be printed on paper and bound inside a cover would appear to qualify it as one, though at several points it seemed unrecognizable as such.
With more surreality than Alice in Wonderland but none of the whimsical turns of phrase, Abarat presents a bland heroine who wanders from one bizarre situation to the next, meeting all manner of improbable beings with little more than an occasional hint of wonder. Unlike Alice, she doesn't even have the excuse of being in a dream; she's wide awake the whole time, yet seems largely unfazed by a man with little heads living on his antlers or fishlike creatures playing cards on a rolling ocean. (There is an explanation for some of her accepting behavior, but it felt entirely unsatisfactory and, frankly, like a cop-out.) You would think that a modern kid would be a little more incredulous, or a little more cynical, pointing out the ridiculous impracticalities she witnesses in her journeys, but Candy just drifts through it all, so happy to be out of Chickentown that she hardly gives any of it a second thought. The plot drifts with her, only barely establishing a greater mytharc about impending threats to the islands of the Arabat... a mytharc that's left entirely unresolved by the end, save a mention that I'd reached the conclusion of the "first" book. Apparently, that revelation was supposed to excuse the wandering nature of the plot: I wasn't reading a whole story, but merely an introduction. If I'd known that I wouldn't even be rewarded with a conclusion, I wouldn't have bothered slogging through to the bitter end. That cost this book the half-star that its admittedly-imaginative setting almost earned it.
Much like that peculiar modern art that leaves me scratching my head more often than not, I can only say about Abarat that I may not know art, but I know what I like... and what I don't like.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Best of Lewis Carroll (Lewis Carroll) - My Review
Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) - My Review
Un Lun Dun (China MiƩville) - My Review

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ruin Your Life Now (Dicklaus Pansy)

Ruin Your Life Now
Dicklaus Pansy
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Humor
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The world is full of options if you want help improving your life... but who are you kidding? You're a loser, and you always will be one. But, as much as you've messed up your life already, you can still make it worse. Learn how to use the Laws of Attraction to bring utter ruination to yourself, your loved ones, and anyone dumb enough to cross paths with you.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A self-help parody, this could've been a hilarious send-up of affirmation-based life improvement programs. Unfortunately, it reads like a rough draft rather than a finished piece, with many glaring errors and unintentional repetitions. The lists of negative affirmations also went on too long, with the few funny gems lost in the flood of mediocre mush. (But, then, I suppose I shouldn't have expected too much with the oh-so-crudely-clever author's pseudonym.) I've read worse parodies, but it had enough glimmers of potential to make me wish it had been better.

You Might Also Enjoy:
How to Sell a Gazillion eBooks in No Time (Russell Blake) - My Review
Ten Things to Remember When: Committing Murder (Michelle Lord) - My Review
Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory (Charles Senescall) - My Review