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10 Last-Minute Ebook Gifts For Under $5

December 11, 2014 2 comments

It’s time for the second gift list here at Opinions of a Wolf (see the first, 10 Non-book Gifts for Book Lovers here).  I thought with Hanukkah next week and some holiday parties already happening that it would be interesting to provide a list of cheap ebooks.  Ebooks make great last-minute gifts, as you can purchase them literally on your phone on the way to the party and have them arrive in your recipient’s email with them none the wiser that you waited until the last minute.  Since you can schedule when the gift email arrives, no one needs to know that you scheduled it only 5 minutes ago.  Ebooks are also great because you can find them for very cheap but a reader who loves ebooks doesn’t care how much the ebook cost.  A book is a book is a book!  I’m not just going to tell you a list of cheap ebooks though.  I’m also going to give you a little reader’s advisory–tell you who the book would be best for.  Without further ado, here is the list, in order of cost from least to most.

For the lover of YA who enjoys a touch of fantasy:

A bunette wearing a white dress with blue embroidery gazes at a blue pixie. The book's title and author's name are on the cover in blue and white lettering.
Initiate by Tara Maya
$0
Dindi is about to undergo her people’s initiation test and ceremony that not only welcomes her to adulthood but also will determine whether or not she is a member of the Tavaedi.  The Tavaedi are a mix of religious leader, healer, and warrior who cast magic spells by dancing.  Since Dindi can see the pixies and other fae, she thinks she has a chance.  But no one in her clan has ever successfully become a Tavaedi.  Meanwhile, an exiled warrior, Kavio, is attempting to shed his old life and the haunting of his father’s wars and his mother’s powers.  But he slowly discovers a deadly plot that brings him directly to Dindi’s initiation ceremony.
This is a unique piece of YA fantasy set in a tribal world inspired by Polynesia.  The romance is light and slow-building, and the focus is primarily on growing up and becoming an adult.  See my full review here.

For the urban fantasy reader without a lot of time:

Woman with short hair in a red shirt in profile.
Cursed by S. A. Archer
$0
London works for hire doing investigations mostly for parahumans, and her best friend is a vampire who keeps hoping she’ll consent to being turned.  Her life isn’t run-of-the-mill, but it isn’t too bad either, until one day she gets Touched by a Sidhe and finds herself sucked into the Fey world bubbling just beneath the surface of the regular one.
This fast-paced novella is perfect for the reader without a lot of time who still wants to get some urban fantasy into their day.  See my full review here.

For the lover of the style of classic scifi:
A dime sits on a black background between the title and author name, both of which are on a marble background.
The Coin by Glen Cadigan
99 cents
When Richard’s physicist professor uncle dies tragically in a plane crash and leaves him his coin collection, he is shocked to find a brand-new dime from 2012.  The only thing is, it’s 1989.  A note from his uncle states that the coin is important.  Richard thinks the answer to the mystery might be in his uncle’s personal diaries he also left him, but he’s not a physicist and can’t decipher them.  As the year 2012 approaches, Richard increasingly wonders what the coin is all about.
This novella is a fun new take on the storytelling methods of classic scifi.  The science is strong enough to be interesting but not too challenging, and the result of the mystery is surprising.  See my full review here.

For zombie fans who enjoy a touch of romance:

Brain in a bowl.
Hungry For You by A. M. Harte
$2.50
A collection of zombie-themed short stories and poetry with the twist that they all have to do with romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form.
This short story collection is different and fun simultaneously.  It will appeal to zombie pans, particularly women.  See my full review here.

For the reader of lesbian romance who loves fairy tale retellings:

Girl's hair with flowers and ribbons braided into it.
Braided: A Lesbian Rapunzel by Elora Bishop
$2.99
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel.  Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day.  The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship.  She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into.  Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.
this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel.  Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales.  The novellas may be mixed and matched.  See my full review here.

For the reader of women’s fiction with an interest in Scotland:

cover_emotional geology
Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
$2.99
Rose is a textile artist with bipolar disorder who for years found her medication dulled her ability to work.  After a stunning betrayal that landed her in a mental hospital, she has moved to a quiet, extraordinarily rural island in Scotland in an attempt to control her illness with as little medication as possible so she may still create her art.  Her life isn’t quite as quiet as she imagined it would be, though, with a warm neighbor, Shona, who introduces her to her brother, a teacher and poet.
This is an emotional, challenging, touching read for fans of contemporary fiction with a heart.  See my full review here.

For the horror fan:

Eyes behind a beaker.Gargoyles by Alan Nayes
$2.99
Amoreena is determined to be a doctor and help people.  She’s a hard-working, scholarship student on the pre-med track in her third year of college.  Unfortunately, her single mother just got diagnosed with metastatic cancer and lost her health insurance.  With no time for a job and no money for the bills, Amoreena is grateful when she is approached by a surrogacy clinic to be a surrogate for $50,000 with payments upon successful insemination and each trimester.  But after she’s successfully inseminated, Amoreena becomes increasingly concerned that something is not quite right with her baby.
If your horror fan loves Rosemary’s Baby and is particularly freaked out by evil pregnancies, they will love this book. See my full review here.

For the lover of noir and urban fantasy:

Man in a hat standing next to a Europeanish buildingOne Death at a Time by Thomas M. Hewlett
$2.99
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous.  Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them.  He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire.  When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.
This is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series.  See my full review here.

For the reader of thrillers and fans of Gone Girl:

Title against a foggy image of a man walking in the woodsI’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar
$3.03
Tom Starks has not been the same since his wife, Renee, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat in a parking lot.  He’s been struggling for the last three years to raise her daughter, who he adopted when he married Renee.  When Renee’s killer is released after a retrial finds insufficient evidence to hold him, Tom becomes obsessed with dealing out justice himself.
This is a unique thriller, with its choice to cast the opposite of a bad-ass in the role of the main character.  This grounds the typical revenge plot into reality, lends itself to more interesting, unique plot twists, and has the interesting aspect of a flawed, nearly anti-hero main character that the reader still roots for.  See my full review here.

For readers of multi-generational family dramas and GLBTQ lit:

Road during a rainstorm.The Value Of Rain by Brandon Shire
$4.99
Charles hasn’t been home since his mother and uncle sent him away to an insane asylum at the age of fourteen after he was found in the embrace of his first love–Robert.  Now, ten years later, his mother, Charlotte, is dying, and he comes back to take his revenge.
This is one of those genre-defying books.  Shire explores the devastating effects of prejudice, hate, secrets, and lies throughout family generations, and that is something that is simultaneously universal and tragic.  See my full review here.

I hope this list helps you find a read for yourself or a gift for another.  Feel free to ask questions about any of these books or ask for recommendations for books for particular recipients in the comments!

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Book Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David C. Meredith

January 30, 2014 3 comments

Painting of a woman in a white dress next to a pond.Summary:
Snow White lived decades of her happy-ever-after, but when Charming dies she is sent reeling into a depression.  Not even their daughter, Raven’s, upcoming marriage can snap Snow White out of it.  When wandering the halls of the castle, desperately seeking to be alone, she re-enters her old step-mother’s quarters.  Now covered in dust, she discovers her stepmother’s magic mirror, which she never knew about before.  The discovery will have far-reaching consequences.

Review:
This is my first read of the 12 indie books I accepted for review here in 2014 (see the whole list).  I surprised myself a bit, reaching first for the fantasy, but I was in the perfect mood for a slightly pensive retelling of a fairy tale.  The book takes an interesting angle for retelling the story, jumping ahead to Snow White’s elderly years, but it unfortunately doesn’t reimagine Snow White herself quite enough.

The narrative choice of having an elderly Snow White discover her stepmother’s magic mirror that then forces her into introspection on herself and her life is a great idea that works well.  We already all know the end of the fairy tale, so flipping it on its head to start at the end addresses that fact head-on.  Now the question isn’t, will this fairy tale end the way all the other retellings do.  Instead, it looks on a psychological level at the impact of Snow White’s early years on her later ones.  It also is an interesting way to address end of life issues.  Snow White is elderly and stuck in a bit of a rut.  She’s uncertain how to go on without her husband of so many years.  These are relevant issues that don’t get addressed often enough in literature, and re-using the Snow White fairy tale to look at them works wonderfully.  It thus is a familiar story and setting with a different focus, which is a great tact to take for a fairy tale retelling.

Snow White herself, however, hasn’t been tweaked enough to make for an interesting heroine.  I admit, I was hoping for someone who either had found or would find her own strength.  The Snow White we see in Disney and other retellings really is a bit of a shrinking violet.  This Snow White stays that way.  Over and over she is the helpless girl who must be rescued by others.  She doesn’t flee the castle, someone else tells her, practically forces her to.  She is then saved first by the dwarves and then by Charming.  Later in her life, after leaving the official fairy tale, we find that she is a simpering clueless virgin on her wedding night who must be guided by Charming. Then even later she is heinously assaulted by some ladies of her court, and she again must be saved by someone else.  Even in the end of her life, she doesn’t pick herself up and continue on.  A magic mirror knocks some sense into her.  Because fairy tales often remove so much agency from the “good” women in them (only evil women are allowed agency), I prefer to see retellings give the women more agency.  Snow White could still have the character flaw of being a bit timid and eventually learn how to save herself.  It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario.  The way Snow White and her story is presented here reads a bit too traditionally medieval.  I want a retelling to take me new places with the character, not extend the same ones.

This issue alone would have led me to give the book 4 stars, but, unfortunately, the book is riddled with spelling and grammar errors.  I only marked the most egregious ones, and I still had 12 on my list.  Issues such as saying someone laid down in the floor, instead of on the floor (loc 2302), putting the apostrophe in the wrong place (“princes’ tongue” instead of “prince’s tongue” (loc 1315) ), and just flat-out using the wrong word (“followed suite” instead of “followed suit” (loc 1084) ) sorely damaged my enjoyment of the novel.  I don’t expect perfection from authors or editors, we are all human, but more than a few errors is something that truly negatively impacts the reading of the novel.

Overall, this retelling of Snow White takes the interesting angle of focusing on the end of her life. This allows the author to explore issues relevant to the elderly, such as losing long-term loved ones and coming to terms with the path your life has taken.  Although this plot gives the fairy tale a new focus and extended plot, Snow White herself has not been updated at all.  She is still the simpering violet who must be saved by all around her.  Some readers may be bothered by the number of errors in the spelling and grammar in the book.  Recommended to fans of traditional fairy tales with only a slight twist who won’t be bothered by a lack of editing for spelling and grammar.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Braided by Elora Bishop (Series)

February 12, 2013 5 comments

Girl's hair with flowers and ribbons braided into it.Summary:
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel.  Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day.  The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship.  She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into.  Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.

Review:
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, although I can be fairly picky about whether or not I like them.  But Rapunzel is a tale that is not redone often enough, in my opinion, and the fact that it was a lesbian version made me jump at this novella.

It’s nice that the retelling doesn’t just change the genders of the main romantic pairing and leave it at that.  In the original version, a married couple steal from a witch’s garden and in payment they must give her their unborn child who she then locks up into a tower.  She would let her long hair down for her witch/mother to use as a ladder to get into the tower.  A prince years later hears her singing in the tower and helps her escape.  In this retelling, the people worship a tree.  When the tree starts to die they tie its spirit into a person.  That person lives on a platform in the tree and the people pray to him/her.  When the person dies, the fate to be tied to the tree randomly chooses a baby by putting a tree pattern on their chest.  This fate is supposed to be Gray’s, but her mother somehow acquires another baby, Zelda, and with magic cuts the fate out and ties it to her instead.  Gray knows this and at first visits Zelda out of guilt but eventually falls in love with her.  This version, surprisingly, is actually a lot more fantastical and magical.  There is even a quest within an alternate dimension/dream world.  I enjoyed the increase in the otherworldly feel, and I liked that it lent the twist of a parent trying to protect her child rather than a mother smothering her child.

The writing has an earthy, magical quality to it.  It’s definitely language that is looking to be pretty, and it mostly succeeds.  The romance between Zelda and Gray is sweet and very YA.  Their passion revolves entirely around kissing and holding.  I like that it gives a soul and connection to the romance without ignoring the physical aspect.  It’s the perfect balance for this type of story.

While I enjoyed reading the story, I must admit it wasn’t my ideal retelling of Rapunzel.  I didn’t like the religious aspect that was drawn into it, and I did feel that Zelda falling for Gray was a bit fast, particularly given the fate switching aspect of the story.  I was also disappointed to see that in spite of all the other changes in the story, the Rapunzel character is still blonde.  I’m not sure why no one ever seems to change this when retelling Rapunzel.

Overall, this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel.  Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales.  The novellas may be mixed and matched.  Recommended to GLBTQ YA fans who enjoy a fairy tale.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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