Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November Site Update

The previous seven reviews are now archived and crosslinked at Brightdreamer Books.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TIme Treasure (Sheila Raye)

Time Treasure
(The McFey Treasures series, Book 1)
Sheila Raye
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Fantasy/Romance
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: McFey family patriarch J.R. was a dreamer, forever roving the high seas in search of lost treasures and forgotten artifacts. He even named his children after the characters in Peter Pan. After their mother died, he raised them on his salvage ship, the Neverland, in the hopes that McFey Treasures would become a family business. But he forgot that dreams don't pay bills, and children often lose their way as they grow up.
Years later, Tina Belle remains aboard the Neverland, the last McFey pursuing her father's dream. Her brothers have become the "lost boys," drifting into their own lives. They only return to help out after J.R.'s death left her and the family business foundered in an ocean of debt... each hoping she, too, will finally grow up and leave the impossible dream of the Neverland behind her. But she has no intention of abandoning her father's legacy, especially when his chief rival stands ready to erase that legacy once and for all. She has one last shot at glory, if she can find a shipwreck worth attention from her temporary sponsors. In short, Tina Belle McFey needs a miracle... but she wasn't counting on one like Captain André Marin.
Bound to the seas and his ship, the Trident, by a centuries-old curse, Marin and his crew live as ghosts. Only the love of a virtuous woman can win Marin's freedom, and the freedom of his crew... but, in four hundred years, only two women have even heard his call. The first died in tragedy. Belle doesn't want love - she has no time for it, especially not from a man who's as good as a ghost. She only wants help to find a treasure and save her family.
Miracles and curses often go hand-in-hand. For Tina Belle and Captain Marin, love may prove to be the most elusive miracle, and greatest curse, of all.

REVIEW: As a romance, there were certain givens about this plot, such as both lead characters being blessed by an abundance of good looks and unfulfilled passions. The overall story arc, too, had a certain genre inevitability to it. Still, for all that, I found this a decent read. Tina Belle is no fainting flower, to be easily manipulated by the captain's wiles. André, too, has to do some growing up and learning, as his attempts to seduce a modern woman force him to consider his own motives, and even the reasons he was cursed to begin with. The backdrops of rivalries, treasure diving, and lost lore add interest beyond the bedroom, as do the gifts and limitations of the Trident's cursed half-existence - the ship can sail through time and touch on mortal dreams, abilities Tina quickly learns to exploit to track down treasures even as Marin lures her with more personal pleasures. As for the inevitable sex and romance, they proved suitably steamy. If the prologue drug, if the McFey brothers sometimes were hard to keep straight in my head, and if I wondered whether there might have been more done with Marin's crew to mirror the conflicting interests and personalities aboard the Neverland, I still considered it reasonably satisfying. (It was also a free download when I grabbed it for my Kindle. That rarely hurts a rating.)

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Inscription (Pam Binder) - My Review
The Liveship Traders trilogy (Robin Hobb) - My Review
Shelly's Second Chance (L B Swan and Hope Chandler) - My Review

Monday, November 19, 2012

How I Published My Book And Sold Thousands of Copies (Kenneth Tingle)

How I Published My Book And Sold Thousands of Copies
Kenneth Tingle
Kenneth Tingle, publisher
Nonfiction, Writing
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Many people dream of becoming published writers, but few are willing to put in the hard work it takes to make that dream a reality. Tingle, a self-published author, explains how he made his own success story.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: I had to laugh a little, reading this: Tingle's advice focuses almost exclusively on self-publishing and promoting physical printed books, first through local channels and then branching outward, yet this is an eBook-exclusive title. Maybe that's why some of this material felt a little dated, despite the modern format. (How does one leave a promotional copy of an eBook in the downtown barber shop? Are mass faxings, especially faxings with an admittedly deceptive premise, really a viable advertizing format these days?) Still, it's hard to argue with the sales figures he claims to have enjoyed using these tactics. His advice is fairly straightforward, if a little simplified. I can't say it spoke to me particularly, but it might help others.

You Might Also Enjoy:
You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) (Jeff Goins) - My Review
Write Good or Die (Scott Nicholson, editor) - My Review
Your First Novel (Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb) - My Review

Drawing People (Joumana Medlej)

Drawing People
Joumana Medlej
Nonfiction, Art
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Learning to draw the human figure is one of the most complex tasks of any artist. The subject matter is further complicated by the wide variety of proportions, skin tones, and facial features of the many races of Mankind. The author/artist breaks down the subject into simple parts, including notes on many ethnotypes.

REVIEW: Geared at comic artists and illustrators, Medlej's book sometimes seems too simplistic, with basic line drawings and simple captions. However, she packs plenty of information into this volume. If such subjects as muscle and bone anatomy - staples of most human figure drawing books - are short-changed, it's more than made up for by the extensive notes on human ethnotypes, the most detailed breakdown of the subject I've ever seen in an art book. This may not be the only human drawing book you'll need, but it's well worth a place in any artist's library.
Incidentally, this title does not seem to be available through Amazon.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Constructive Anatomy (George B. Bridgman) - My Review
Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy (Christopher Hart) - My Review
Figure Drawing Without a Model (Ron Tiner) - My Review

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Coyote's Daughter (Corie Weaver)

Coyote's Daughter
(The New Legends of the Southwest series, Book 1)
Corie Weaver
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Maggie never wanted to move to Albuquerque. The New Mexico desert and a neighborhood full of strangers make poor substitutes for the ocean beach and her old friends. But, of course, as a 12-year-old she didn't get a say in the matter. She's happy that her mother gets to work her dream job, but that doesn't make her summer any easier.
While out walking her dog, Jack, down to the river, Maggie finds a strange boy with yellow eyes, tangled up in an odd snare. When she helps free him, she makes her first new friend... but Ash is a very peculiar friend, indeed. The village he comes from doesn't appear on any map, and the story he tells - of an evil wizard turning people into crows - doesn't make sense. When Maggie starts dreaming of an old woman and a coyote who walks like a man, she realizes that she's caught up in a story of her own, with dangers and wonders straight out of legend. But how can a modern California girl hope to prevail against an enemy that holds even the trickster Coyote at bay?
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: Coyote's Daughter takes the standard modern-kid-stumbles-into-a-magical-adventure formula to the deserts of the American Southwest. Maggie's not always the brightest of heroines, needing to be led through more than one phase of her adventure by the obligatory friendly strangers (a formula staple), but she manages to come through in the end. The Native American trappings lend a little exotic spice to this otherwise lukewarm rendition of a standard story. I've read far worse stories, but I don't expect this one to linger long in my memory.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker) - My Review
Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends (Margot Edmonds and Ella E. Clark) - My Review
The Leopard's Daughter (Lee Killough) - My Review

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind (Djaffur Chetouane and Rachel Jackson)

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind
Djaffur Chetouane and Rachel Jackson
Nonfiction?, Autobiography/True Life
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In 1980's Algeria, surviving amid corruption and scarcity takes strength and wits, not to mention choosing friends and enemies with care. For the Berbers, native North Africans suppressed and marginalized by centuries of invaders, life is even more precarious - even their native language is outlawed. Like many young men, Djaffur chafes under these restrictions. He joins fellow Berbers at his university in speaking out against their oppression, and finds himself on the wrong end of a deeply corrupt political machine that thinks nothing of torturing or even murdering its own citizens. Seeing nothing for himself but a future of dirt-poor living and prejudice in his native Algeria, Djaffur determines to flee the country... an escape fraught with false starts, close calls, setbacks, and missteps that nearly cost him his life.

REVIEW: I grabbed this during a freebie Kindle download window; it seemed like a change of pace, and North Africa is one of the many parts of the world I hear mentioned in the news but don't really know that much about. Chetouane paints a grim picture of a world sunk so far into its own corruption that true liberty and reform seem impossible, with attitudes too deeply ingrained in their society to ever be rooted out. Even here, though, one can find glimmers of kindness and even hope if one looks hard enough. His own journey from oppression to freedom sees him on the wrong side of the law more often than not, mostly as a matter of raw survival. I wound up clipping it a half-point because of occasionally thick politics (integral to understanding the full extent of the forces aligned against the Berbers, and the majority of North Africans in general, but still dense enough to trip up the narrative), plus some irritating formatting issues in the Kindle edition. Overall, Chetouane's tale reads like something out of a movie, a story of desperation and depravation and even personal enlightenment, made all the more incredible by the fact that it actually happened.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Sword and the Cross (Fergus Fleming) - My Review
Hidden Libyco-Berber Alphabet (Bob Idjennaden) - My Review

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to Draw Animals (Charles Liedl)

How to Draw Animals
Charles Liedl
Nonfiction, Art
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Using many reference drawings, this book demonstrates how to draw various animals.

REVIEW: If the description seems simple, it's because this book is too short to merit more words. Indeed, there are only five and a half pages of text... two of them being the table of contents. The rest of the 64 pages are devoted to drawings of animals in various poses. Liedl includes several bird reference drawings, and a few more obscure species and poses, but overall offers nothing here that I haven't found in other animal art books. Still, it was only five dollars brand-new; I got that much out of it, at the very least. A decent addition to any artist's reference collection, this certainly is far from the only animal drawing book you'll ever need.

You Might Also Enjoy:
How to Draw Animals (Jack Hamm) - My Review
Animal Drawing - Anatomy and Action for Artists (Charles R. Knight) - My Review
The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals (Joe Weatherly) - My Review

Monday, November 5, 2012

Arcana Universalis: Danse Macabre (Chris J. Randolph)

Arcana Universalis: Danse Macabre
(Arcana Universalis, Part 2)
Chris J. Randolph
Oktopod Digital Press
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Apprentice Caleb's externship aboard the Imperial dragonslayer Ashkalon ended in fiery devastation, when a search mission turned into a trap by dragon-worshippers. He wakes deep in the bowels of the massive, magic-powered starship... but he no longer lives. The ship's necrontier, Aldebaran, has transformed the hapless boy into a revenant, a deathless slave. Part of the invisible army of servants that keep the Ashkalon in fighting trim, Caleb begins to understand the dark side of the empire that the living do not - or will not - see. He also begins to see the possibilities of his new existence. His life, after all, was a series of ill-fated disasters. How much worse could his death be?
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: The second installment in the Arcana Universalis serial novel, it finds its footing sooner and moves faster than the first part. Caleb's world still has many wonders to reveal, but he also gets more of his own story told here. Ironically, his own death finally gives him the courage to take charge of his own life... at least, so much as he's able to, being an inherently disposable slave whose very existence is subject to the necrontier's whim. I'm looking forward to the next part, whenever it's released. (I might even consider paying for it; these first two were freebies when I downloaded them, but I'm becoming invested in the story.)

You Might Also Enjoy:
Star Rigger (James A. Carver) - My Review
Arcana Universalis: Terminus (Chris J. Randolph) - My Review
Leviathan (Scott Westerfield) - My Review