Indie eBook Roundup #2

All right, so, welcome to this month’s second edition of the Indie eBook Roundup! I still haven’t decided if we’re going to be running this feature monthly or every few weeks. It’ll probably depend on how many indie books we find ourselves with. This month, though, we’ve got some pretty decent ones including several YA dystopian books and the first in the Circle of Talla series,Shadows of the Realm, which is a fantasy series that’s definitely worth checking out.

Read on to find out more…

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13626269Title: Shadows of the Realm
Author: Dionne Lister
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: Smith Publicity
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA Fantasy, New Adult Fantasy

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

Usually I have a hard time getting into high fantasy stories – especially when they involve dragons. The exception is Game of Thrones and even then the books are so depressing I’ve all but given up on them. So When I tackled Shadows of the Realm I was expecting the same sot of internal reaction. I was surprised to find, however, that Lister has come up with quite a fantastic little book here. Not only are the characters compelling, the story engaging, but Lister makes the whole concept of ‘high fantasy’ reasonably approachable for readers. We’re not looking at just some massive, imposing tome here (though at almost five hundred pages it can be very intimidating). You’re looking at something that people are going to want to read. The world that has been built begs to be explored and the magical realms and the young realmists at the basic core of the story drive everything.

Now, this is a strange review for me to write because even though I enjoyed the book well enough it definitely wasn’t up my alley. I’m really just not a dragon person. It turns me off on most fantasy stories. But I really enjoyed the characters and so that made me want to finish it. The one real downside is that there are a lot characters in true Game of Thrones style so some of them don’t get the sort of development or screen time they deserve and the multiple perspectives can be disorienting. That was a bit of a problem for me but one that seems pretty common to basically every fantasy novel ever. I also had a problem with the cliffhanger ending because I am an impatient person and obviously didn’t have the second one to jump right into after I finished it.

So I’m still waiting in suspense until I get around to tracking it down.

If you’re looking to try something that has a lot of the classical fantasy elements without being too much of a hassle to read or too tired of a story, you should pick up Shadows of the Realm. It’s quite fantastic.

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11341277Title: Tankborn
Author: Karen Sandler
Release Date: April 9, 2013 (September 15, 2011)
Publisher:
Lee & Low Books (Tu Books)
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

Here is a book series that I genuinely wonder why it wasn’t picked up by a larger publisher. It’s not perfect but then again no young adult dystopian novel is really anything more than a good, quick, fun read. And Tankborn here fits everyone last one of those criteria and then some. Unlike a lot of series where society changes to a certain point but we’re still looking at a sort of ruined post-apocalyptic Western world, Tankborn is set several centuries into the future in a world run by a very rigid caste system. Kayla – and her tank sister Mishalla – are GENs (genetically engineered nonhumans) who lack any sort of rights and live a life of slavery in a way vaguely reminiscent of the untouchable castes in India or Japan, American slavery, and Nazi prison camps. (They even essentially rip the motto ‘Work Will Set You Free’ from the gates of Dachau.) It’s maybe a little heavy handed on that end but it sets up a very well designed society which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of other YA dystopian stories.

The story is told from the point of view of Kayla, Mishalla, and Kayla’s love interest Devak as they are forced out of their homes and the care of their artificial families. Each of these GENs goes on to an assignment as a slave to ‘trueborns’ which are an elite caste in this society. Despite all the hardships and being separated from one another the sisters go on to question things, fall in love, and slowly growing into their own. As with all YA books in these sorts of societies there is inevitably a sort of revolution that our plucky heroine finds herself involved with and everything just sort of comes together. The romance plots were a bit rushed, Mishalla could have been a bit more developed, and the story could have moved a bit faster but all in all this was a surprisingly good read.

It was good enough that I read the sequel, too…

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14288682Title: Awakening
Author: Karen Sandler
Release Date: May 6, 2013 (April 9, 2013)
Publisher:
Lee & Low Books (Tue Books)
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads Amazon

… which was actually better in a lot of ways.

The plot in Awakening picks up a bit more with Kayla now a much more active member of the revolution. There’s just a lot more action and you get a bit more bang for your buck. Kayla travels around doing clandestine work withe her job in transportation which allows us to get a better feel for how things are going within the organization and such. Changes in the demeanor of this conflict start to make things get very serious in this rigid, caste-based society as deadly, violent raids begin which alludes to other forces at work. Throw in a deadly plague effecting only GENs with a hundred percent mortality rate… There’s a lot going on, Kayla is dealing with a lot. The story gets busy. At times it seems a bit too busy.

Mishalla gets a bit more interesting in this book in her evolution into a lowborn which is interesting to see. I could have taken or left her part of the original book but it’s good to see that plot line developing further. Even if I don’t like it that much. Also, the whole teenage romance thing gets pretty annoying. Somehow its even more so out of place and forced when Kayla and Devak aren’t even around each other all that often. So that’s pretty annoying. But I’m also twenty-five years old now so maybe just sixteen year olds ‘in love’ in books is annoying to me. I won’t hold that against the book. (Not too much, anyway.)

All in all, solid sequel. The third book in the series is due out sometime next year. I’ll see about tracking it down when it comes out and adding it in here at some point!

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15991598Title: The Listeners
Author: Harrison Demchick
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Horror

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Medium
GoodReads | Amazon

Okay, so, this was a very dark book. I wasn’t actually expecting it to be as dark as it was and it was a little jarring at times. In Harrison Demchick’s The Listeners, Daniel is a fourteen year old boy living in the city during a very tumultuous time. There is a plague going through the streets and the police are putting down the sickos left and right while the Listeners, a violent and self-maimed gang only add to the problems. For a while Daniel seems to be safe from it all. But then his mother goes missing while off on a supply run and after that, well. It all goes down hill.

I saw someone describe this book on GoodReads as ‘28 Days Later‘ meets ‘Lord of the Flies‘ which is pretty damn accurate, actually. Daniel goes from this normal fourteen year old boy to a full member fledged Listener, known for their fanaticism, missing ears, and violence. It’s not a happy book. Because things get really depraved, Daniel does terrible things, and people die badly. Intermixed with all of this we get a handful of other stories here and there which give the book a slightly disjointed feel which is why this is a two-star review for me. It was distracting and read a bit choppy.

But if you’re a slave to the zombie media market, this is a really good read. It’s something a bit different. It looks a lot at people, our limits of humanity, and what happens in a city that’s gone absolutely crazy. I just didn’t really get that into it myself.

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17447644Title: 25 Perfect Days
Author: Mark Tullius
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: 
Vincere Press
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
GoodReads | Amazon

All right, so, 25 Perfect Days is one of those books that really has a great concept and doesn’t quite get there at the same time. Mark Tullius takes us into a dystopian future that’s not entirely what we’re used to these days. Instead of just throwing us into it all he tries to help us get there by presenting twenty-five separate but connected stories over the span of a few decades. They try to show how things got quite as bad as they did.

There are some really great ideas in a lot of the stories for a decent into this sort of crazed world. And I really liked how it all tied together. Some of the stuff can get a bit crazy and there’s a lot that happens between characters. It’s intriguing to see what will happen next and when specific characters or families might pop up once again. The real problem is that after a while it’s just confusing. The stories are all fairly short and on their own they aren’t bad at all. It’s where they come together that they start to fall apart a bit. They jump around from character to character. Particular characters make sacrifices without much development. Motivations are unclear.

In the end, you just have to struggle to keep up. There’s even a sort of guide to characters and such at the back but it doesn’t really help when you’re reading an ebook. It’s not like flipping to the back of a printed book. It’s a lot more complicated. I wish that maybe instead of making the stories as short as they were or instead of focusing on twenty-five different stories that they had played it all a bit closer together. Focused on maybe five central characters only and left the rest to speculation or some how tied in stories with the five key, ever present narrators.

Ultimately, it’s worth a read for sure if only because the format is really cool and the stories are actually good. Just don’t have as high of hopes as I did when going into it!

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