Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - 5 Days In

So far, I've enjoyed my Kindle Unlimited experience.  The service appeals to my status as a cheapass when it comes to buying e-books.  So far, I've "saved" $38.11.  That's pretty damn good.  I haven't run into any hiccups yet and I wish they'd revamp the lending library and use the same interface as Kindle Unlimited rather than making you go to the Kindle store using your Kindle.

My only concern is still the selection.  As I've said before, I've found 30-ish books I'm interested in, not counting the back catalogs of Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and Prologue Books, which I never heard of before starting the KU trial.  Beyond crime books, however, I could see the well running dry for me in a month or two unless they beef up their offerings.

Since I want this post to have a bit more substance, here are some books I've picked out that are available through Kindle Unlimited that I intend on reading.

  1. Clockers by Richard Price
  2. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
  3. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran
  4. Shield and Crocus by Michael Underwood
  5. Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand
  6. Jack and Mr. Grin by Andersen Prunty

Sow

SowSow by Tim Curran


Richard is convinced his pregnant wife Holly is possessed and carrying something unholy within her womb. Does it have something to do the centuries old account of a witch she'd been reading about or is Richard simply going out of his mind?

This is the seventh book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

With the rise of the e-book, the novella is making a comeback as a viable form of writing. Tim Curran is pretty damn good at using that form.

Sow is a revolting tale of a man and his bedridden, pregnant wife. As the pregnancy progresses and she continues changing, it quickly becomes apparent that things aren't exactly kosher. It plays on the fact that men can never know what it's like to be pregnant and runs with it.

I just mentioned the tale is revolting. As far as I knew, it's the only time I've ever felt nauseous from something I've read. Holly's transformation is disgusting, especially during the later stages. The book didn't end quite like I wanted it to but it was pretty apparent early on that it wasn't going to be a joyous pig roast at the end.

The DarkFuse novella series continues to knock them out of the park. I'm really glad this was a novella and not a full length book since I don't think I could have stomached much more. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $38.11.

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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Claire DeWitt and the City of the DeadClaire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran


When prosecutor Vic Willing goes missing in post-Katrina New Orleans, Claire DeWitt comes to town to find out who killed him. Can she put her personal demons aside long enough to find out?

This is the sixth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This is one of those books that's going to be really hard to do justice to in a review.

Claire DeWitt is the greatest detective in the world and a very unconventional one. Her bible is a book called Detection by renowned French detective Jacques Silette, a confusing and contradictory philosophical tome that is either a work of genius or utter insanity.

If George Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos learned his methods from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently and was female, the result would be a lot like Claire. Rather than relying on conventional methods, Claire supplements them with intuition, dreams, the I-Ching, and a cocktail of alcohol and mind-expanding drugs. City of the Dead reads like a vision quest at times.

The combination of philosophy and the wreckage of post-Katrina New Orleans do a lot to raise this above a lot of similar detective fiction involving missing persons. The setting is a character unto itself.

Claire's background is explored in dreams and flashbacks, revealing how she became the world's greatest detective, starting with solving mysteries with her two friends when she was just a teenager, having found Detection in a forgotten dumbwaiter in her parent's dilapidated mansion. Lots of dark things are only hinted but you get the feeling Claire has been to hell and back several times.

The case was suitably serpentine and while I had an idea what happened to Vic Willing, I was in the dark about the particulars for most of the book, which I love in a mystery. The whole thing reminded me of Twin Peaks a bit in its strangeness.

I've made the book sound really dark but it's not. Claire's sense of humor keeps the book from descending too far into the darkness despite the horrors she uncovers.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is one of the best books I've read all year. Five out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $35.12.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Kick-Ass Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your AudienceThe Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig


This is the fifth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

The Kick-Ass Writer is a collection of 1001 writing tips, broken down into 31 lists of 25 items each. I do realize that doesn't quite add up to 1001 but it's still a lot tips.

Here are the contents:
- 25 things you should know about being a writer
- 25 questions to ask as you write
- 25 things I want to say to so-called "aspiring" writers
- 25 things you should know about writing a novel
- 25 ways to be a better writer
- 25 things writers should stop doing
- 25 things you should know about writing horror
- 25 ways to defeat writer's block
- 25 ways to plot, plan, and prep your story
- 25 things you should know about character
- 25 things you should know about description
- 25 things you should know about writing a goddamn sentence
- 25 things you should know about plot
- 25 things you should know about narrative
- 25 things you should know about protagonists
- 25 things you should know about setting
- 25 things you should know about suspense and tension in storytelling
- 25 things you should know about theme
- 25 things you should know about writing a scene
- 25 things you should know about dialogue
- 25 things you should know about endings
- 25 things you should know about editing, revising, and rewriting
- 25 things you should know about getting published
- 25 things you should know about agents
- 25 things you should know about queries
- 25 things you should know about self-publishing
- 25 things you should know about blogging
- 25 things you should know about social media
- 25 things you should know about crowdfunding
- 25 things ways to earn your audience
- 25 things you should know about hybrid authors

There's a lot of useful tips contained in this book but writing, much like photography, is very much a "learn by doing" kind of activity. Still, Wendig dispenses some useful advice leavened with humor. Quite a bit of it feels recycled from his other writing books, though. Probably 80% of it. Considering how many writing books he has in print, I guess I shouldn't be this surprised. However, there's a lot of repetition between the individual topics as well. The most useful tips were in the writing horror section and the topics related to publishing.

while I'm a tremendous Chuck Wendig fan, I don't think I'll be pickign up any more of his writing books. The humor isn't enough to make me forget I've read most of this before. 2 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $25.73.

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Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man

Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old ManRonald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man by Lawrence Block


In the span of one day, Laurence Clarke is fired from his job as a magazine editor of Ronald Rabbit's Stories for Boys and Girls, has his wife run off with his best friend, and has his ex-wife jack up her alimony. What will he do? Write some letters...

This is the fourth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I've been aware of Ronald Rabbit for years after seeing Block mention it a few times in Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. When it showed up on Kindle Unlimited, I was all over it.

Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man is told in the form of letters written by or written to Laurence Clarke, a man beset by troubles on all sides, many of which were of his own making. He responds to his troubles by writing letters and getting into sexual mischief with a carload of teenage girls, a repressed secretary at his former employers, and his acidhead mistress.

Laurence Clarke is a literary ancestor of Seinfeld's George Costanza in some ways. The Ronald Rabbit magazine was cancelled six months before the story begins and he managed to skate by collection a check by making sure he wasn't noticed. He's also a liar and quite bawdy. His antics had me stifling my laughter quite a few times.

The book is also quite dirty, not surprising since Block used to churn out porno books around this same time. In the afterword, he said he cranked out the book in four days. Funny considering some writers can't put out a book in four years. Anyway, Clarke has some sexual adventures in this book, including threesomes with teenage girls and engaging in surprise sodomy with the repressed secretary I mentioned earlier.

Ronald Rabbit is a bit of dirty good fun and an interesting look into the past of my favorite living crime writer. Three out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $15.74.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Leviathan

LeviathanLeviathan by Tim Curran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When tabloid photograph Johnny Horowitz finds gnawed human bones on a remote stretch of beach, he uncovers a decades old secret, a gate to the Cretaceous period. What creatures will come through the gate and will they be Johnny's last chance at the big time?

This is the third book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

It's my opinion that novellas are a great format for ebooks and Tim Curran is the master of the horror novella. Leviathan is a novella about a small town with a tropical storm bearing down on it and a mysteryous beach that's fenced off and avoided. Turns out, a gate to the Cretaceous period opens there on nights before storms. After an accidental discovery and some tense moments, Johnny Horowitz seems to think photos of prehistoric sea reptiles are his ticket to fame and fortune.

Horowitz is a great character, a guy who knows he's not going to live forever and full of regrets, looking for his one last shot at glory. Since this is a horror novel, things don't quite go that way.

Tim Curran's descriptions of prehistoric megafauna are horrifying but still realistic. After all, the creatures he describes really existed. As the tropical storm draws near, the wheels quickly fall off Horowitz' plan and he draws the attention of something orders of magnitude bigger than he ever imagined.

Since this is a novella, that's about all I'm going to give away. Leviathan is a gripping tale best consumed in a sitting or two. 3.5 out of 5 stars.



Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $13.17.

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National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro WrestlingNational Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling by Tim Hornbaker
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling is the story of the formation, life, and demise of the NWA.

This is the second book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling details the formation of the NWA due to the need for one recognized world champion instead of each promoter recognizing his own title holder and the monetary advantages thereof. I find it fascinating that forty or so promoters tried to do what Vince McMahon Jr. did decades later, only instead of one man having his cake and eating it too, many men were fighting over how big of a slice of cake they should get.

The books starts in the days before the formation of the NWA and describes the early days, like promoters battling non-members and forcing them to join or go out of business. I had no idea St. Louis was such a battleground in the forties and fifties. I also had no idea Lou Thesz was an unpopular champion with the promoters and not a huge box office draw for most of his tenure as champ. Danny Hodge's father getting so mad at the man wrestling and beating his son that he jumped into the ring and stabbed him with a pen knife was crazy! Also, I never heard of Sonny Myers but getting sliced by a fan in the dressing room and requiring over 150 stiches was really interesting. Other parts, I already knew, like Toots Mondt and Strangler Lewis having a lot of power in the old days.

Wrestling is a morality play, a conflict between good and evil. So how did Hornbaker manage to suck all the fun out of it? Well, most of the writing was very dry. Every time the NWA hit a bump in the road, there were pages of quotes from court transcripts, newspaper articles, and legal documents. For me, the most interesting part was the profiles of all the important NWA champions from Orville Brown all the way to the point WCW withdrew from the NWA.

The book had its moments but I'm glad I didn't pay the $8.69 list price. 2.5 out of 5.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $12.18.

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