Read and Loved

Read and Loved: Clones Anthology (It’s on Sale, too)

 

Clones: The Anthology

I’m not in this one, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read it with enthusiasm! And I wasn’t at all disappointed. Given my own interest and writings in this vein, that’s probably not a surprise.

During my (almost) daily perusal of the science fiction deals on Amazon, I found this on Kindle Countdown for $0.99, so I thought this would be a good time to share! It’s chock full of excellent stories by some of my favorite authors (and friends). Normally, I don’t include anyone I know in the Read and Loved series, just to keep this on the up and up. In this case, it’s an anthology with enough folks that I figure it’s okay.

The mood and atmosphere ranges in this volume, as befitting the subject, and the stories are so varied and wonderful that there’s a new wrinkle just around every corner. This one is highly recommended by me!

Read and Loved for August, 2016 – Todd by Adam Nicolai

I crack open somewhere between ten and twenty books a month. Yeah, I know that’s a lot, but there’s a caveat to that. If the book doesn’t grab me by the time I reach the 20% mark on my kindle, I ditch it and put it in the DNF file.  Some folks only give a book a single chapter or fifteen minutes or other parameters, but I give it the full 20% unless it’s so egregious that I have to get it away from me as quickly as possible lest it eat my brain cells.

For some books, I simply never even notice the percentages ticking by along the bottom of my screen.

For other books, I dread the ticking of the percentages.

For a very few books, I silently say, “No, no, no,” when it see the percentages reaching the end.

Todd by Adam Nicolai is one of the latter. I truly enjoyed this book, had no idea how it might end, and was absolutely captured by the world he built inside this book.

 

First off, just look at that cover! That’s what grabbed me, which just goes to show you that covers matter. The blurb was enticing, so I grabbed it up.

As expected in a post-apocalyptic novel, the end of the world has happened, but how it happened is sort of a mystery. Alan and his son, Todd, seem to be the only ones left after a single moment in time in which everyone else disappeared. This tale is more about Alan and Todd than anything else, though the mystery of what happened slowly unwinds as the book moves on. And it works. I was absolutely unable to look away.

Alan is the main character and he is not perfect. We all know an Alan, however distantly. He’s the kind of guy that had potential, but never fulfilled it. He is a bundle of shortcomings and lost opportunities. Their relationship and Alan’s inner character are the main focus of the story.

The ending…oh, the ending…is not what we’ve come to expect from this genre, but it is right for this book. I’m dying to talk about it, but that would be a disservice. This book is, hands down, my favorite read of the month and I have zero hesitation about recommending it to others.

The book is priced at $4.99, but it is also in Kindle Unlimited, which means you can borrow it for free as a KU member or use this as your monthly free book if you have Amazon Prime. If you don’t know how to do your prime borrow, it’s pretty simple. You’ll have a special button to borrow if you look at the book on your kindle device. It doesn’t show up on the regular web page.

 

Read and Loved: A Dirty Job (On Sale this Month!)

adirtyjobThis is normally one of those pricey trad-pub ones, so having it on sale for $1.99 for the month is a big deal. I had to share it because this happens to be one of my super-favorite books!

First off, it’s Christopher Moore, so you know the humor is going to be weird and catch you completely off-guard. Second, it’s about a guy who discovers he’s death, but in a ridiculous way. Third, there are hellhounds…that like bubbles and a baby.

And don’t even get me started on his neighbors (I still say “like bear” after things and crack myself up).

Just trust me on this one and get it. It’s as cheap as they come right now. And bonus, this is literally the most hilarious, side-splitting, blow snot out of your nose, and pull over somewhere to pee audio-book you’re ever likely to hear. No joke, no exaggeration. On my long commutes back and forth from D.C. I got stared at in traffic jams like I was a lunatic.

Yeah, it’s that funny. Where’s the bonus? The audio-book is $3.99 instead of something ridiculous when you buy the book. So, grab that too. Then come back and tell me how much you laughed and how good it was!

Read and Loved: Selection Event by Wayne Wightman

SelectionEventThis is another one pulled from my “a while ago” readings. According to Amazon, I read this in 2011, but I gotta say, what made me add it to my Read and Loved list is that I can still remember the details of the book and how much I loved it even after a few hundred books and four years since I read it. That means it made an impression, so here it goes.

Again, this is not a best-seller or a super-famous author or a big house production. It is a good book written well and a unique tale to tell. It also isn’t for everyone. If you’re terribly offended by the thought of the bad guy also being religious, then this isn’t for you.

So what did I think? What’s it about? This is what I wrote about it at the time:

This was a recommendation on Amazon for me and it persisted until I gave in. I’m so very happy I did. I just lost the better part of my weekend, including precious sleep, to this book and am not one bit sorry about it. I just finished it a moment ago and am positively filled with the story. It’s one of those that will stay with me a while and I’ll return to in the future.

Briefly, the book is about a plague, but that plague is really just the underpinnings of the human story. Martin, our main character, is one of those lost young adults in our world who just can’t find their niche. His late 20s are almost done and he has yet to find what fulfills him. Today, we would call him a rather unpromising fellow. He volunteers for an isolation study that will last a year and during that year he is truly isolated. He reads and tries to figure out the rest of his life. He doesn’t know the days, but he knows enough to realize his year is either up or past yet the door never opens. Eventually, he gives up, disappointed with himself, and uses the self release. What he walks up into is a world that ended.

If I give too much in the way of further detail, I really will ruin it for any potential reader. So, despite my desire to really discuss nuances of the book, I’ll refrain and not take away the pleasure of future readers. I’ll leave you instead with the gist…this is about Martin and everyone else who is left and how people really do deal with sudden loss, sudden freedom and sudden responsibility. It’s simply beautiful.

And yes, there is an absolutely brilliant dog in this book and you’re going to love it. In some ways, it has a bit of Dean Koontz in it in that regard but so much more exceptionally done it’s breathtaking.

Some have compared this book with Earth Abides and there is possibly some small element of that in the bones of the story, but this is better. It’s much more approachable and we really do know the people in this book. You’ll look up and expect to see Martin so you can ask him a question. He’s that real. And you’ll love and hate people in real measures too. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be able to so completely flesh out a person like that.

I like the ending. It’s the way it should be. There is potential for a parallel story or second book in this but it wasn’t cut off as if that were intended. There is simply room left while still leaving you very fulfilled. I confess, I would love to know what happened 20 or 50 years later. Very much so. If the author reads this, please do let us know if that might be a possibility.

Some have mentioned editing errors. I saw a couple but nothing egregious and really very few. No more than I’ve seen in big publishing houses lately.

This book is absolutely worth it whether you like post-apocalyptic fiction or realistic human works or just a good drama. All comers will be satisfied. Grab it up before the author realizes how good he is and raises the price!

So, I liked it…very clearly so. It’s still very reasonably priced at $2.99, though it isn’t in Select so not eligible for Kindle Unlimited. It’s available at Barnes and Noble as well.

Anyone else read it? What did you think?

 

Read and Loved: Hunger and Thirst by Wayne Wightman

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I know I’ve been remiss on getting my Read and Loved posts out there. I fully intended to do them weekly, but when I’ve got a book about to be released, something has to give. Now that Forever Between is out, I have a few days before I go back into my shell for book three! So, here is a goodie I read in 2011 that deserves a shout out.

First, please overlook the cover. Back in the wild days of 2011, independent authors didn’t have to have covers like we do nowadays. Flip past that and dive into the story.

Here is my review as written right after I read the book:

Hunger and Thirst is one of the best novella length works I’ve read in a very long time…maybe ever. (Okay, I’ve read even more since this, but this still holds as one of the most intriguing!) Part horror, part love story, part post-apocalyptic tale and part character study, it is superior in all it’s parts and makes a very compelling whole.

I read it all at one go. I came home from work, opened it up, and spent the remainder of the evening completely oblivious to anything around me. It was one of those stories that you get so deeply pulled into that the real world just fuzzes out. I couldn’t hear the phone, hunger pains or complaints about a lack of dinner. It was that good. And it was utterly unique as well.

With novella length works, one must walk a fine line in giving a synopsis. Too much and it is ruined for future readers, too little and no one knows exactly what the reviewer loved about it. I’ll try to walk that line because I would really hate to ruin your pleasure with this story.

Jack and Natalie are the main characters. They meet in the dry and dusty desert of a post-apocalyptic world where the rules of civilization don’t really exist but they are not so far gone that people don’t remember and appreciate that they were once there. That knowledge is really key to the story. When asked to behave but no one requires you to, do you? Is morality something deeper than arbitrary rules meant for civilized people who must get on in a crowd?

Of course, Jack and Natalie fall in love. That is the love story of the piece but it isn’t your standard love or romance as written today. It’s much more. And it is combined with horror, morality and how people deal with new (and very old) situations.

And yes, like only Mr. Wightman can do, there is a very cool cat in the story. It’s not the same level as the dog in Selection Event, but it couldn’t be really since Event is a full length novel.

As the other reviewer mentioned, there is something very special about the way Mr. Wightman creates characters. Aside from Jack, Natalie and the kitty, there are actually a very large number of characters who make short appearances in the story. Yet, despite their brief appearances, each is fully fleshed and it is done, somehow, in just the briefest of phrases. Someone really needs to study what he’s doing and figure out how he is doing it. He is, quite frankly, the best character artist I’ve ever read.

This is an inexpensive way to get a full evening of entertainment that you won’t regret. The other work of his that I’ve read, Selection Event, is even more fulfilling, so I can heartily recommend both of them. Just don’t start them if you have pressing business to attend to. You won’t get it done.

Caveat: As always, I only include books in the Read and Loved posts that are written by authors I don’t know. This is my opinion simply as a reader.

Read and Loved: Temporary Duty by Ric Locke

temporaryduty

This is a quirky book that I enjoyed quite a bit. Also, I liked the previous cover much better than this one, so don’t let the cover fool you.

As a career naval officer, of course this one piqued my interest. I mean, sailors going directly from ships on good old Earth to ships with aliens? Come on, that’s like bait. Plus, these aliens just sort of showed up so there’s no build up of Earth tech or anything. It’s totally new.

Is the book perfect? Nope. But it sure is a fun romp. The story follows two sailors, low rankers who are young and already cynical, as they get assigned to the first alien ship to visit our planet. They have very little idea what their duties will be, but they assume it will involve mops and toilet cleaning.

Even their names are common, John and Kevin. I believe that was on purpose, as a way to illustrate in yet another way how everyday-sailor they are.

There is much adventure, derring-do, hilarity, bureaucracy (bureaucrazy in my lexicon), and romance. It’s a long book, and I had a great deal of fun reading it. Perhaps my enjoyment was partially because I’ve been the sailor at the bottom of the rank pile (I came in enlisted originally). Either way, it’s a fun read. Very space opera, but in a fun way instead of a laser beam everything you meet way.

Caveat: As always, the only books featured on Read and Loved are books written by authors I don’t know. This is my opinion purely as a reader. And yes, I like to feature books that I haven’t seen a huge buzz about.

Read and Loved: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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This is a huge thumbs-up from me. Anna Dressed in Blood is a mix of horror, paranormal, YA teen romance, and pretty much everything else all wrapped into a delightfully original story.

Cas, our protagonist, is seventeen and possesses the extraordinarily rare ability to kill the dead…as in ghosts. His father was the same but was killed mysteriously when Cas was seven. Ten years later, Cas has once again moved to a new location for a new ghost with his mom. This time, he meets Anna, who haunts the house she was murdered in more than fifty years ago.

It’s good stuff, yep.

Couple of caveats with this one. There is cussing and a whole lot of gore. It’s a YA/Teen book, but I have a hard time believing it’s for anyone under sixteen simply because of those things. To me, it read as YAFA (Young Adult for Adults).

I really loved this one. The characters are richly drawn, the story unique and intriguing, the writing flows well and there is always something happening or about to happen. There is no navel-gazing here. Give this one a try if you’re in the mood for something a little bloody, but fun.

As always, I only put books in Read and Loved written by people I don’t know. I’m reviewing strictly as a reader.

Read and Loved: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

ForestHandsTeeth This is a slightly different one for me, but a series I really enjoyed. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first book in a three book series and I’ll admit that I was drawn to it initially because of the amazing title and cover (see the original cover down below). Then I read the description and clicked “Buy” immediately. I devoured the first book, and then the next two, in record time.

So what’s it about?

Zombies! But YA Zombies with a teen main character and a really original setting. It’s no secret that I love zombie literature, but am sick to death of the endless head-bashing/shooting/chopping of the typical zombie novel. I want a story! It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the people. (Yeah, I wrote a series with zombies, so my partiality is obvious.)

Mary is a teenager in an isolated village surrounded by tall fences. Beyond those fences, often in plain view, are the unconsecrated, which are the zombies. The difference here is that Mary’s village believes this is just the way things are. It’s not a sudden zombie plague or anything like that. This is just what life is like.

A mysterious Sisterhood sort of controls the village and the general belief is that they are the only people left in the world. Beyond their fences is nothing but an endless forest filled with unconsecrated.  Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Yeah, I thought so as well, so I immediately loved it.

Mary is at the cusp of her transition into adulthood and all that will come with it. Pairing up with someone appropriate, her serious crush on a different guy than the intended and general anxiety as she grows up are all piled in with something a little different; a dream of something more. Her mother’s tales of a faraway place where there is water to the horizon and no dangerous unconsecrated at all. A place called the ocean. It is these dreams that make her different from everyone else in her village.

When the worst happens, it is both a tragedy and an opportunity. And the ocean beckons.

No spoilers here! Let’s leave my description there, shall we?

What I thought:

While this employs zombies…a well-used foe as we all know…this setting and story are entirely original. Rather than dealing with the immediacy of the apocalypse, this is a story that takes place long after the worst has happened. It is also a very internal novel, which is a style I really love. I like to be in the character’s head and heart and this is precisely that sort of story. It’s also very vivid and “colorful”. By colorful, I mean that intensity with the main character that allows the reader to almost see and hear the world around the character. Again, I’m very fond of that style.

Caveats:

This is very much a YA/YAFA novel. The nuances of adult reasoning brought on by long experiences are absent. This is a teen who is tugged by their emotions, physical state and less subtle thoughts. In that way, it’s very classic YA. Some of the choices and decisions are not the same ones you and I would make as adults, but I can clearly see my 14 year-old self behaving that way!

The world complexity and the journey of the main characters brings it into YAFA (Young Adult for Adults) territory. And the beauty of the world around them (even as it’s horrible) will appeal to the adult reader.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series because it was fun, different and super engaging. Be sure to read the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon before you click buy if you’re not entirely sure because this is not Indie Fiction and priced accordingly!

NOTE: As always, any book featured in Read and Loved is written by someone I don’t know. I’m reviewing entirely as a reader.

ForestTeethseries

Read and Loved: Exponential Apocalypse by Eirik Gumeny

ExponentialApocalypse

For my Read and Loved post this week, I’m again reaching back to 2009 to a book that really tickled my funny bone. Exponential Apocalypse is, bottom line, a quirky and fun book. It’s hilarious, yet intriguing and utterly original. And bonus, since it’s a $0.99 title, it’s a low risk investment in a fun read.

My review:

In Exponential Apocalypse, Eirik Gumeny takes a light and twisted look at the post-apocalyptic genre that is too much fun to be ignored.

In his afterword, he readily admits that the story may have been the result of too much caffeine, possible drugs (no word on whether or not they were illicit) and other assorted bad habits, but in truth, it is pure genius.

The story unfolds as the 23rd apocalypse is shaping up for an appearance. The 22 previous ones were quite bad, but didn’t so much end things as change them. Change as in making the sun no longer very reliable (after all, Mars falling into it is bound to have some effect) or making New Jersey the last really safe place in the former United States. Even better, there are clones of former leaders who can seriously kick buttocks (Taft with a rocket launcher anyone?). Throw in an enhanced, telepathic squirrel with cajones made of pure brass, murderous robots and the slightly more dangerous murder drones, fallen gods with alcohol problems and toilet issues, and a few humans with no discernible differences from other humans and you have this book. Oh, yes, and don’t forget the army of  liberal arts majors who wrest control of many states from the former United States and create the Hobo Nation.

Warning: There will be puns. But they aren’t bad ones and you’ll likely laugh out loud and embarrass yourself in public just a wee bit.

This was a quick read not because it is so short, but because it flows so well and absorbs nicely. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Like others have noted and like the author himself admits, it is clear that the writer is much influenced by Douglas Adams and other slightly off writers. But this isn’t a trite rip-off of that style, but rather the first offering of an entirely new style that has some common elements with those other writers. I certainly hope I’ll see more from this author.

NOTE: As always, books I put in the Read and Loved posts are all written by authors I don’t know. I’m reviewing strictly as a reader.

Read and Loved: Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

monkeycover

This is an oldie but a goodie! In this day and age, we’re no longer constrained by the limited book runs at book stores. Ebooks have made everything current, so I thought I bring up a book I found to be a rollicking good read and have read several times since I bought it. That book is Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff.

First off, I still have the original book with it’s ultra cool cover. It was curved, plastic covered and very fun…you can see it on Goodreads here, but that one is faded. The original was quite vibrant.

Okay, enough about the cover…what about what’s inside, Ann?!

Right, well, Jane Charlotte is our main character and she is currently being questioned in a psych hospital after being arrested for murder.

Hmmm, so what? Sounds like every other book out there. Ah, but there’s the rub. Jane proceeds to explain to her questioner that she works for the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons (Bad Monkeys). Oh yes, all sorts of crazy town there. But it gets better.

Within that same organization are other departments. Those include Panopticon (Ubiquitous Intermittent Surveillance), Malfeasance (Internal Affairs), Cost Benefits (Personnel) and even more cleverly named departments, and they all play a role in her tale. And those are all topped off with The Scary Clowns department. Jane works for them getting rid of evil-doers, hence the murder.

It just gets better from there.

I loved this book! If you look at the reviews, you’ll see that people are very torn by it. Love and hate for the ending vie with each other in the reviews. I’m firmly in the love camp. This is such an inventive book, told in such a readable style with just the right amount of tension, irreverence and wish fulfillment.

Give this one a read. It’s worth it. And let me know what you thought of the ending. You may find yourself looking askance at the faces on your dollar bills after you read it. That’s okay. It will make you smile when you do.

Caveat: As always, I only put books by authors I don’t know in the Read and Loved section.

Work In Progress

Savannah Slays (working title)

5000/ 100000 words. 5% done!

Portals - Portal Invasion #1

78000/ 78000 words. First Draft Done!

Mercy - PePr Inc novella

3000/ 20000 words. 15% done!

The Ways We End

66000/ 66000 words. 100% Done! Publishing Dec 8th! (Dark Collections 2, "And Then Begin Again" goes live on the Dec 8th too!

Strikers: Outlands

40000/ 10000 words. 40% Done!

Good News Gone Bad #1
Series of Shorts

4000 / 20000 words. Back Burner for now.

Lulu 394

60020 / 80000 words. 75% done! Back Burner for now!

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Books by Ann Christy