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Posting Schedule

As we're just getting rolling here at ATFE, you can expect a new e-book review every Tuesday, plus a smattering of other e-book related posts as they occur to us. And maybe the occasional review of a traditionally pubbed book, simply because we can't resist them.

The Devilin Fey by Jess C. Scott

August 3, 2010

I headed back to Smashwords for my review this week, picking out a book that reminded me of those mid 90s flower covers that were pretty but had nothing to do with the story.  The Devilin Fey by Jess C. Scott is a 33k compilation of two novellas.  According to the product description:

A novella of two stories, featuring an incubus and succubus. Story #1 features a demure young woman unleashing the “devil in” her, through the intimacy with an incubus. Story #2 features a voyeuristic succubus driven by jealousy and a dangerous fixation.

I am sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this book.  I had hopes because she started out with an interesting take on incubi, but I had absolutely NO respect for the heroine of the first (longer) novella.  I could not relate to her AT ALL.  The writing itself was all tell, tell, tell with no showing and a heavy reliance on thoughtologue.   The writing was flat and emotionless (back to the telling rather than showing).  The text was full of improperly placed commas, and errors like using the word “smelt” where “smelled” was needed.  Smelting is a process of separating iron from ore, not something one does with one’s nose.  I am not a skimmer at all and I had to skim to get to the end to see if it got any better.  It didn’t.  I didn’t believe in the relationship between the hero and heroine, and the only redeeming quality I found was that the asshole she sleeps with at the very beginning (which is where she lost my respect), gets tortured in the end, and he totally deserved it (no shock that I liked that–The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite stories).  I didn’t even make it to the second novella.  I think the author could use a serious crash course in character development.

One and a half cookies for an intriguing concept that could be improved drastically by proper character development.

The Bloodgate Guardian by Joely Sue Burkhart

July 20, 2010

Worlds within worlds await through the Maya Bloodgate…

Dr. Jaid Merritt doesn’t do digs. The last time she ventured into the jungle, someone died. Now she’s content to decipher Maya glyphs from pictures sent to her by her famous archaeologist father. But when he goes missing while trying to perform a ritual based on her translations of an ancient codex, Jaid must put aside her fears and travel to Guatemala to find him.

After misusing the Bloodgates to bring his twin brother back from the afterlife, the Maya priest known as Ruin was cursed by the gods to stand as the guardian for all time. He was unable to stop Dr. Charles Merritt from opening the gates, and now demons roam this world. The last thing he wants to do is hurt the beautiful woman who is somehow infused with his magic, but if she uses the codex to retrieve her father, Ruin must do his duty. And this time, he won’t fail. Even if it kills him. Again.

This was the title I bought when Carina Press opened their virtual doors a month or two ago.  I’ve been meaning to post about them.  The ebook division of Harlequin, this is a GREAT and reasonably priced source for ebooks (EPUB and PDF formats).  List price for this one was $5.99 and I got it for the completely reasonable price of $4.79 in their opening sale.  I was immediately drawn to this one by the cover–as we all know, I’m a sucker for a good cover.  But also the mythology.  In a world where we’re overrun with vamps and werewolves and team this or that, it’s the first thing I’ve seen in romance that deals with Mayan mythology.  Since the world is supposed to end in a couple of years, it seemed wise to go ahead and read it.  BOY was I glad!

Burkhart presents an action-packed read that I couldn’t put down (we won’t talk about what I didn’t do at work just so I could finish it).  The mythology was beautifully woven into the story in a way that–if I didn’t quite get everything because I hadn’t heard it before–was well enough explained that I didn’t feel I was missing anything.  I absolutely identified with the heroine, this brilliant and flawed “UnIndiana Jones”, and adored watching her come into her own and go toe to toe with Ruin.  And Ruin.  Delicious. Sigh…there are not enough big, broad muscular sexy priests out there.  Muscles, brains, and magic?  What’s not to love?  Burkhart totally puts the characters through the wringer with this book with at least two cases where it looks like there’s no way they could prevail.  They totally earn their HEA.

Four dark chocolate chunk cookies for a delicious, spicy, and kinda dark read.  Bravo Joely!

Warning: If blood squicks you, this might not be for you, as the Maya mythology is a very bloody one.

The Bloodgate Guardian is available from Carina Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

So Over You by Gwen Hayes

July 6, 2010

This was one of those books I picked up from Smashwords a while ago and took ages to get around to reading.  I was definitely pleasantly surprised by So Over You. Gwen Hayes seems to be one of those authors who’s releasing some stuff independently to drum up a fan base for her debut release Falling Under from NAL in 2011.  I’ll say that she hooked me.

Here’s the blurb:

Layney Logan, girl reporter. That’s all she’s ever wanted to be. The only thing Layney dislikes more than swimming in the high school dating pool is letting her arch-nemesis and co-Chief Editor, Jimmy Foster, get the better of her. So, she’ll take his stupid assignment to go on twelve blind dates and she’ll prove to him she’s twice the reporter he is. Unless she listens to her heart…

So Over You is a fun little YA romance with the flavor of Veronica Mars (without the mystery aspect) and a young Lois Lane.  Hayes takes the classic trope of the love-hate relationship and gives it a delightful twist.  The chemistry and antagonism between Layney and Foster is well done and there’s a serious twist at the end that, while a little unexpected, pulls together a lot of hints from the beginning about why our intrepid heroine is the way she is.  There were a handful of typos in there, but not enough to pull me out of the story.  At a buck ninety nine, I say, So Over You is a great little read for any fan of teen romance.

Three and a half cookies to So Over You for a sweet read.

So Over You is available from Smashwords and Amazon.

Endurance by Jack Kilborn

June 29, 2010

The title page reads: Endurance, a novel of terror, by Jack Kilborn. Aka Joe Konrath, writer of many, many novels and well-known to indie authors as the man behind the popular blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing. And it certainly is a horror novel. I know, not the sort of thing you usually get from me, but hey, even I can stretch. I should probably say that while I love horror movies, I don’t get the same thing out of horror books. I don’t know why. So when I say that this book didn’t scare me, we’ll just assume the lack was mine.

I’m not really sure how long this thing is. Amazon doesn’t give word counts, which is what I like to go by since page counts aren’t very helpful when you’re talking about reader devices. It did take me a few nights to get through it, despite the fact that it moved pretty fast.

Have you seen one of those B movies where a bunch of people are drawn to an inn in the middle of nowhere and it’s obvious that bad things have happened there and are going to happen to these people, and then wacky, blood-splattering mayhem happens? That’s pretty much exactly what this is, in book form. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I kind of like those movies, and this is written with enough interesting background and details to keep it from feeling omg not again while you’re reading it.

The characters are well done. They’re interesting people with good backstories and relationship drama enough to make you care about them. The villainous characters are…imaginative. And they’re horrible. And they’re almost too ridiculously freakish and evil to be believed. But if you like this genre and are determined to suspend disbelief, you’ll probably let it work for you. If you’re determined to find fault, you will.

Lots of action, a good deal of suspense, some interesting questions through the beginning that build to a whole lot of answers, and then chase scenes and bloody fights galore until the finish.

Now for my beef: proof-reading. I know that the more you read something, the harder it is to really see things. For this reason, no author should proof-read their own work unless it’s been out of their sight for so long that they can really look at it. If this was handed over to someone else for a read after it was converted for Kindle, that person failed massively. It is possible that when I converted this from Kindle format to EPUB for my reader (yes, it is “Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited, DRM-free and convertible for you non-Kindle readers), that my conversion caused some of the errors I saw. I haven’t noticed that before, but it’s possible. However, besides missing a beginning letter or end punctuation here and there throughout the piece, there was also a weird cut and paste incident, and two places where a the wrong characters’ names were used. While so many indie authors are trying to get past this image of indies as unprofessional writers putting out stuff riddled with errors, it was disheartening to see something by a professional going indie with so many problems.

But I’ll forgive it because it’s Joe Konrath, who writes a kick-ass blog and we love him. Just don’t do it again.

So…it feels kind of harsh to give this only 2 out 4 cookies, but that’s a middle score here at ATFE. The writing is vivid, story is solid, great characters, interesting details, pacing is excellent. But the story is right out of a B movie, the cavalcade of monsters gets so ridiculous it gets hard to take the story seriously enough to get scared by it, combined with the lack of line-editing have to earn this story some demerits.

Oh, and hey, this is a horror novel. I shouldn’t have to say, but just in case: serious gore warning in effect. Also sexual violence against women, mutilation, insane hillbilly mutants, incest, there’s an animal you might be concerned about… If you’re a delicate reader, please look elsewhere.

Endurance is available in Kindle format at Amazon, for reading on Kindle compatible devices. It’s DRM free so that others can read it by converting the .prc format with a program like Calibre (which rocks).

The Maestro’s Butterfly by: Rhonda Leigh Jones

June 22, 2010

The Maestro’s Butterfly is a small press book released by Ravenous Romance and is definitely a book for my “keeper shelf”. In fact I liked it so much that I will be buying it in print. I bought it on Kindle for $6.99, which is usually more than I pay for an ebook but a friend of mine recommended it to me. And I trust her judgment.

Synopsis: (From Amazon)

Miranda O’Connell has just made a dangerous bet with her mysterious, sexy music teacher that will change her life forever.

She doesn’t know Claudio du Fresne is a vampire who keeps human submissives as feeders and sex slaves, or that he is quick to punish with a sound spanking. Or that he has secretly brought his ruthless brother in on the bet.

Victoire “Jack” du Fresne wants a piece of the action. He will help Claudio ensure the survival of his risqué stage show, if Claudio agrees to his terms. If Miranda decides to stay after 30 days, she becomes Claudio’s property. If she decides to leave, she becomes Jack’s.

Those 30 days will open Miranda to a world of sexual possibility and dark desire, where fear and lust become one. If she can handle the intensity. Will she fall in love with the kinky vampire Maestro and submit to life as his feeder slave? Or will she escape the confines of his estate for the dashing, dangerous charms of his brother?

This book would be classified probably as “paranormal erotic romance,” though I didn’t find it over-the-top risque. i.e. nothing about the book set off my squick-o-meter. Others mileage may vary, though. I can take quite a bit in my erotica before we hit the squick-o-meter.

This book plays on the vampire’s human pet trope, taking much of the sexual innuendo in many other vampire stories and bringing it to the forefront. Rather than implying it, it spells it out. This isn’t a complaint, however, since that fits the genre of what’s being written. And for most genres, spelling it out too explicitly would be taboo.

I normally don’t like romance with my erotica or erotica with my romance, but I think the harder edges of the male lead needed some love/caring to keep parts of the story from being just flat out brutal. Not so much physically brutal as emotionally brutal. Also, French men normally don’t do it for me. I find the accent unbelievably annoying in a male. However, most of the story I was able to ignore his nationality and stay immersed in the book.

What’s refreshing about this author is that she knows what erotica is about and how to write it. The point of an erotic story is to arouse the reader. Like it or not. And yet, many erotica authors seem to think that the more graphic they write, the more erotic it’s going to be. This is not the case. Throwing out naughty words for body parts does not automatically make a story a piece of erotica. Only a fifteen year old is aroused by flagrant use of explicit terminology with no substance behind it. Ms. Jones manages to write very hot text in chapter one, when it’s just innuendo, before we’ve even gotten to the sex. This indicated to me up front that the author knew what she was doing.

In many ways this is the standard tale of a woman discovering and embracing her sexually submissive nature. The difference is that her dominant/master is a vampire. I like my vampires and I like my kink. So I find I like this blend of both worlds very much.

The characters are also multi-dimensional with serious and believable flaws. The book isn’t “fluffy” and works to make an actual point about sexual surrender, whether the reader gets or agrees with the point is another matter.

This is the first erotic novel I’ve read that explicitly spells out “fear” as a kink. In most heterosexual kinky erotica it’s implied that the woman to some degree gets off on being afraid of her partner. But this is the first novel where I’ve seen this “fear as kink button” theme spelled out. Though it wasn’t spelled out in a way that was annoying.

Warnings for the squeamishly inclined: This book contains S&M elements, public sex (on a stage in front of an audience), and multiple partners.

Probably not for everyone. But if you like the kink and you like the vampires, this is a very well-written piece of erotica that is likely to push all the right buttons.

I give it four cookies. And a glass of chocolate milk. Cause I’m nice that way.

This book can be purchased at the above Ravenous Romance link (It can also be purchased there in audio. I’ve heard the narration for the audio is very good, and this one might be a treat as an audio book.) It can also be bought at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com

FTC Disclaimer: This book was purchased by me.

A Happily Ever After of Her Own: Nadia Lee

June 15, 2010

Melinda Lightfoot, a preschool teacher with an unusual ability to flit in and out of fairy tales, never thought she would get into trouble…

…until the Fairy Tale Police arrest her while she is in Beauty and the Beast. They offer her a deal: Find Beauty, who left the story when Melinda trespassed into it, or be charged with the ultimate crime — Fairy Tale Killer. If that’s not bad enough the Beast tags along in search of his true love, and Melinda starts falling for the fairy tale prince. She must choose between doing the right thing and having her own happily ever after.

Warning: This title contains the following: Fairy Godmother, the Wicked Witch, dysfunctional fairy tale families, ax-wielding executioners and a happily ever after (or two).

After a series of stinkers that aren’t even worth mentioning here, I stumbled across this delightful novella a couple of weeks ago and absolutely PLOWED through it.  I’d never heard of Miss Lee before, but saw her book tweeted, and when I saw the cover (which I LOVE), I had to buy.  As far as I can tell just now, Kindle is the only place you can buy it.  But it’s totally DRM free, so you can use Calibre to convert it to whatever format you need.  From what I can tell, this is a stand alone  novella that’s a total laugh a minute.  Fans of Fractured Fairytales (does ANYBODY remember those?  Maybe I’m showing my age) and the Shrek movies will absolutely appreciate Lee’s fanciful approach to fairy tales.  The connections between familiar fairy tale characters are delightfully dysfunctional and you’ll die laughing over the reason behind the Beast’s curse.  It’s a lovely, light read.  Short but not really missing anything.  Just a nice little bite of romance.  I love how Lee really embodies the entire REASON we read romance–because in our real life world, happily ever afters are hard to believe in.   I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more from Nadia Lee.

Four ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk to A Happily Ever After of Her Own.  Totally worth the $0.99 price tag.

Zoe Winters’ Blood Lust Trilogy Wrap-Up

June 8, 2010

It’s been almost 2 months since I reviewed Kept by Zoe Winters, the first novella in the Blood Lust trilogy. As you may recalled, I really enjoyed it.

Since that time, the other two stories in this work have been released and I have had the pleasure of reading them also. My overall impression is that Ms. Winter’s work is getting better and deeper as she goes along.

The second story is Claimed, which brings back Charlee, the loyal and plucky BFF of Kept’s heroine, and Anthony, a vampire of questionable virtue. In fact, Claimed picks up during the climactic events at the end of Kept, giving us a new perspective. And, still somewhat crazed by those events, he goes to seek out Charlee, a woman he’s been interested in for some time. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but…did I mention the crazed part? It wasn’t. Screw-ups happen, and Anthony spends much of the rest of his story trying to fix his mistakes and making things worse.

It’s an excellent story, well-told with a quick, entertaining pace, and some fantastic and surprising world details.

And then we come to Mated. I’m not the only one who’s saying “this is my favorite of the three”. The story brings back an interesting character from Claimed by the name of Jane and pairs her with a new character, Cole, the alpha of the local werewolf pack. Jane’s particular circumstances, discussed some in Claimed and broadened in Mated, have forced her to spend a lot of her life with vampires who hate her and she hates them right back. When Cole takes her as payment for a gambling debt, she thinks she’s probably going from one slave-owner to another, so to speak, and doesn’t know what to expect. You should expect a touching romance built around a bit of an intrigue and sprinkled with hints of things to come.

I’m going to go ahead and give Ms. Winters 4 out of 4 cookies for these two. It certainly was nice to get three entertaining bargains in a row, and I’m looking forward to more of The Preternaturals series. Both of these are a bit longer than Kept at just under 36K words each, and worth the time. There are love scenes, but I don’t think there’s anything here that’s going to set off your prude filter. I suppose there is some violence. I mean, come on, it’s vampires and werewolves! And sometimes they actually act like it. You can find these via the Amazon links sprinkled above, and in other formats via Smashwords.

~Cookie

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