Tag Archives: ebook downloads

Gravity, by Abigail Boyd, eBook Review

gravityI don’t usually gravitate toward the paranormal. I hold some strong religious views and am of the opinion that the occult can be dangerous. But I’ve agreed to review Gravity, so I will judge Ms. Boyd’s craft, not her subject matter. And my conclusion? Abigail Boyd is a gifted writer!

In Gravity, Ms. Boyd has created three wonderful characters. Ariel is a fifteen-year-old girl whose best friend has vanished without a trace. She lacks confidence, struggles with “what ifs,” and she’s totally confused by her sensitivity toward the paranormal, not to mention her difficulty dealing with overprotective parents. Ariel’s new friend, Theo (feminine), holds to her own unique but personable style, and Henry, well, who knows what Henry is? Despite her hopes, Ariel certainly can’t figure it out! The shifting relationships between this cast of well-rounded and oh-so-normal characters provides the foundation for a page-turning plot.

Ms. Boyd’s narration is nearly flawless. She scripts sentences that are easy to maneuver, with smooth transitions and unlabored prose. It’s just edgy enough to appeal to kids, but not so slangy as to appear dated in a few years. For instance, “McPherson (the principal) had always thrown me a vibe that screamed wrong.” I talk like that. I love it. And here are a few of her absolutely fabulous details and word pictures:

“My math teacher, Mr. Vanderlip was a twitchy little man with a paisley tie.”

“Her cloying cloud of fruit punch scented perfume hit me in the face like a chemical warfare attack.”

“It was comforting talking to someone I actually could talk to. I no longer felt like a target, dodging around waiting to get hit.”

“He had the personality of a dripping towel.”

Great stuff, ain’t it? And now let’s talk about suspense. When weird stuff starts happening, the knocks on the wall, the slamming lockers, the visions and dreams, you have to keep pushing on, because you have to learn what’s happening. And exactly what is Principal McPherson up to (the scumbag!)?

The book isn’t quite perfect. Ariel’s first day of school, in the early chapters, explains much, but I was starting to feel a little restless from its length. There’s also some scattered profanity. Not much, but I always question its necessity in a book classified for children. And apart from my own personal discomfort with a séance scene, I think séances are overdone. Every book, every movie, every television series, it seems, includes one. I also found lots of typos (which I’ve sent on to the author and trust will shortly be fixed) and a few logistical problems, where narration contradicts itself. Again, easy fixes.

Now back to the stuff I appreciated. Ms. Boyd has a great feel for a book’s movement. Her relationships work in slowly, naturally. Scenes build on each other. She plants fabulous clues that are easily glossed over until suddenly those detail take on significance. The whole book is skillfully wrought.

The ending, however, I hated. Not because it sucks, but because the suspense is so well done that I now have to wait for her next installment to come out. Because I must keep reading. I must learn what happens!

Seranfyll, by Christina Daley, Book Review – Bargain eBooks

seranfyllSeranfyll, a  brand new novel by Christina Delay, will take readers to a wonderful place where horses fly and houses sneeze, where mops and pails bark like dogs and clean of their own accord, where trees walk and butlers are created – willy-nilly – out of chickens.  It’s a delightful place.  A place of animation and imagination.  A place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.

Ms. Daley’s story is lengthy, but I never felt I was jogging in place.  It flows well and contains a nice mix of action, intrigue, fantasy, dialogue and interaction between characters.  In fact, this play between three well-defined characters is one of the book’s greatest strengths.  Rain, a slave with a sweet, affectionate spirit; Coal, another slave who’s distrustful, rude and impatient; and Domrey, the drunken, eccentric, wonderful lord.

The book is also chuck full of wit and sharp one-liners, especially from Domrey, whom I particularly enjoyed.  His unpredictability kept me laughing.  Knitting on the roof, dancing on the table, leaving a chicken in charge of the manor.  But Seranfyll is not without its serious moments with its powerful message against slavery.  At times, it feels almost biblical, such as when Domrey invites the destitute to his banquet, or when he takes Coal’s whipping on himself.  Seranfyll celebrates honor, goodness, loyalty, patriotism, friendship and love.

I must say the book is in need of a light edit to fix typos, slash some adverbs and adjectives, and eliminate “wordiness” in some sentences.  (It has since been re-edited.)  But don’t let these small issues sway you in your choice.  Seranfyll is magical, highly imaginative and fun.  I recommend it for children age 10+ and adults who enjoy fantasy with a fairy tale flavor.  Check out the sequel, Eligere.

Seranfyll is only 99 cents!  Here’s where to find it:

Newbery Honor Books, 2000-2010, Book List – Where to find print editions and Kindle downloads

In a continuing effort to highlight excellence, here is a list of books that won high honors in the annual contest for the Newbery Medal, the greatest award given for children’s literature.  Title links connect to paperback editions (some hardcover).  Kindle editions are available where noted.  If the Kindle notation is not a hyperlink, downloads are available through the title link.  As I read them, I’ll also link to book reviews on this blog.

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

Ratburger Salad, by David Elvar, eBook Review

ratburger saladRatburger Salad, by David Elvar, is not the kind of book I prefer. I like a powerful, dynamic main character, depth of emotion, metaphor, a setting so intrinsic you can feel it. Ratburger Salad has none of these things. But personal preference aside, let me tell you what this book is.

Hilarious.

Alex Bristow and his three best mates do NOT want merits in cookery class. It would ruin their whole image. So, with the help of a most unlikely comrade and a GIRL (heaven forbid!) they come up with the most cockamamie plan to thwart their teacher. I’ll let you find out for yourself if they succeed, but be prepared for chuckles the whole way.

First, being American, I enjoyed the European flavor of words like “telly,” “merits,” “mum,” and “skive.” Words I don’t run across often outside of Harry Potter and old James Herriot tales. My favorite cultural discrepancy, however, was when the boys compliment a young lady (insincerely, of course)by saying she looks like a million pounds. (Think money, Yanks.) And this made her happy! Across the pond, you tell a girl she looks a million pounds and she’ll clock you right back into Europe!

I have no argument with Mr. Elvar’s writing abilities. While his plot isn’t exactly jammed full of fast-paced action, he drives it along with masterful dialogue.   And with colorful word choices like “bunging,” “sidling,” and–love this one–“ghastly.” His writing never dallies, never grows stagnant. Also, he treats us to a bit of tasty foreshadowing.

We get the whole gamut of low class meets high class, girls against boys, brothers versus sisters, students against parents, and children in conflict with parents. He does a nice job of working out differences between the local fellows and the boy from the next school over and imparts a few moral lessons along the way. And with poignant irony, our four heroes dodge cookery class by implementing a plan that requires sewing!

What really makes this story a winner, however, is Mr. Elvar’s ever-present wit. He makes very effective use of repetition to drive home his humor. Consider the following example: “One thing they had discovered long ago was the staff intelligence network. Another thing they had discovered long ago was a healthy respect for it.” The book is also smash full of droll one-liners like, “It’s a lousy job having a sister, but somebody’s got to do it.” And kids, in particular, will appreciate the creative nicknames the boys come up with for their less-than-appreciated teachers.

Overall, even though it’s not my style, I’d have to say kudos, Mr. Elvar!

Ratburger Salad is available at Smashwords.com.

eBook File Formats

During the last few years, ebooks sales have been on the rise.  This is true in part because downloads are far cheaper to produce than print editions, therefore, they are priced much lower.  But ebooks are also gaining popularity because of the variety of apps and devices available on which to read them.  And each device requires a different ebook format – many of which are available on Smashwords.com, an online ebook retailer and distributor.

I published on Smashwords and had a whale of a time trying to figure out which format matched which ereader, because I couldn’t find a succinct list.  I suspect there are others out there interested in producing or downloading ebooks who are having the same difficulty, so I will attempt to clarify what I have learned based on the formats offered by Smashwords.  I’m sure this list will not be exhaustive, so feel free to comment.

The EPUB format seems to be the most widely used.  It is compatible with the Barnes and Noble Nook; the Apple iPad; iPhone and iPod Touch; the Bookeen Cybook Opus; Sony Readers; the Bookworm Online ePub eBook Reader, a free online platform usable with any web browser;  the Kobo eReader; the Elonex eReader; iRiver Touch eReader; and the BeBook readers.  Apps include: ibisReader; Aldiko for Android devices; Stanza, for Windows, Mac, and the iPhone; Book Glutton: The Unbound Reader, for any computer with an internet connection; FBReader for many devices; Calibre; and Azarti.

MOBI for the Kindle and the MobiPocket Reader.

PDB for Palm reading devices.

LRF for older Sony Readers.

Besides the above, Smashwords makes available several formats compatible with most computers, including PDF, RFT and Plain text, as well as HTML and Javascript for online viewing over most web browsers.

If you have any of the above-mentioned devices or even a laptop or desktop, you can download ebooks from Smashwords.  You’ll find thousands of categorized books generally priced at $3.00 or less.  Many are FREE!  All you have to do to start reading is sign up for a free account.  And once you purchase an ebook, you can download it as many times as you like, in multiple formats.

If you don’t have any of the fancy apps or devices but can view from a computer, I’d recommend the easily-readable PDF version.  If you have a computer with a web browser, JavaScript is nice, too.  DON’T order Plain text or HTML; they lack formatting.  And RTF doesn’t seem to transfer complete formatting during conversion, so steer away if possible.

So, now you’re armed and dangerous.  Log on to Smashwords and start your ebook library today!

Messenger, by Lois Lowry, Book Review

messengerI did not like this book. It felt dark, unfamiliar and unkind. For such is the world Ms. Lowry created within it. Yet, I could not put it down. It was magnificently crafted, with the beauty and imagery and suspense she is well-known for. And among the dark, tangled evil dwells honor, and compassion, and sacrifice, and a longing for – a desperate attempt at – redemption. So, though I did not care for this futuristic world, I would give my definite recommendation on the strength of Ms. Lowry’s craft.

Messenger is the third in the trilogy that begins with the Newberry-winning story, The Giver. I have read The Giver (and would recommend it), though it too feels dark and hopeless, but I have not read the book in between, Gathering Blue. So I am certain I have missed a great deal. But what Ms. Lowry does, both in The Giver and in Messenger, is stress the importance of goodness and morality by creating a need for it. In her alternate world, she starkly reveals the reality of both in our own world, and she encourages her readers to strive toward making our world a better place.

There is vagueness to Ms. Lowry’s story, or perhaps it is an openness, that allows the reader to bring their own experience to it. She leaves much undefined, so her readers can draw their own conclusions. What is the dark evil that is creeping into the forest? What does Matty’s sacrifice accomplish? As a Christian, I can plug in many of my own beliefs and find a beautiful messiah story within the pages. A survivor of World War II might see the darkness of Nazi Germany and the ultimate victory of the Allied Forces. Others will bring their own stories to it. What Ms. Lowry has done is given us a bittersweet story of triumph with a high cost. You really ought to read it.

My reviews:

Book one: The Giver
Book two: Gathering Blue
And there’s now a Book four: Son