Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Perils of Cheap E-Books (aka A Big Ole Review of Some Very Bad E-Books)

Our thanks to occasional guest reviewer Melissa Paul for her courage in tackling the sometimes scary world of inexpensive e-books.  You are a brave, brave woman.

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(Note to the Universe: the following review contribution, being hereby submitted to RFS, shall, in no way constitute a request for a pregnancy, planned or unplanned. I am a GUEST reviewer performing a community service out of sympathy for the exhausted regularly scheduled entertainment. Thank you, in advance, for your understanding.)

Well then. 

I’ll read pretty much anything: paperback, hardback, ebook, cereal box, zine, whatever.  I love my Kindle for its portability, capacity, and simplicity.  HOWEVER, it does have some shortcomings, probably the biggest of which is the fact that it is so EASY to BUY books: click...click...magic happens...and I am now reading! (The credit card bill will arrive later.)  Consequently, I spend a lot of money on books. To help with my book bill, I have been keeping an eye out for steals and deals. But sometimes you get what you pay for.

I have fallen victim to the lure of cheap e-books on several occasions. I almost always regret it. Chances are good that if a book is available in “e”format only, it is because no publishers are willing to invest in it. Generally (although not always) this should be a warning to the reader. Glaring plot holes, horrible spelling and grammar, and badly written dialogue are only some of the headaches that the penny pinching book buyer may have to contend with. You may also find yourself unintentionally reading religious propaganda.  Even if the inexpensive entertainment only costs me a buck or two, often I think to myself later that my TIME could have been better spent, say, shaving my legs, cleaning the oven, or distributing home pregnancy tests to all of my friends (I know how contagious these things are, please Universe, I don’t want any more kids, okay?).

Oh and did I mention the series/saga/trilogy epidemic? The first book might be 99 cents, but the second one is going to be $1.99, and you can bet the third one is going to run you 3 bucks or more.  So the bait is a cheapie single book and the hook is the whole series that will end up costing you $12, for which price, you could have gotten that novel everyone at book club has been raving about.  

If you're not careful what you buy, the first thing you'll see when you go to the Kindle store is the cheap e-books.  And, I swear, if you buy one Twilight book, you will never get recommendations for anything other than YA paranormal romance.  Keep reading to see what I sucker I am, because in keeping with my philanthropic community service bent, here’s a roundup of some of the best of the worst that have made it to my e-reader screen.  

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The Complete Forever Trilogy (Grey Eyes, Brown Eyes, and Angel Eyes) - Brandon Alston and Quinteria Ramey (paid $4.32)

Summary (via Amazon):  15 year old Anastasia Adams has spent her entire life on run. She and her mother have never spent more than 18 months in any one location, often times leaving with just the cothes on their backs. Despite the havoc that this is wreaking on Ana's social and academic life, her mother offers no explanation as to why it is they're constantly moving, or even what it is they're running from. But that all changes one night in the woods of Pelion, SC--the night the terror catches up with them.

Fearing her mother dead, and having barely escaped with her own life, Ana is whisked away to world of privilege and tradition. It's a fairytale come to life. The poor girl used to living out of a suitcase is now a resident of one of the most exclusive addresses in the world. The people there adore her and she catches the eye of a young guardian who sees her as a refreshing change to the girls he's grown up with.

If only they could find her mother. If only she knew the consequences of being born a "conjurer." If only she knew who that green eyed stranger was, the stranger who'll tell her about a past too romantic, and too tragic to be real. In the end, she'll have to choose between the boy who has captured her heart and the stranger she can feel down in her soul, assuring at least one of them an almost certain death.

My Review: Okay first, why is this The “Forever” trilogy? All the books have titles ___ Eyes. Shouldn’t it be the “Eyes” trilogy? There is another “Forever” trilogy by Jude Deveraux, so that’s just confusing. But wait that’s just the beginning of the confusion!  Ana is a witch. A princess witch. A reincarnated princess witch in love with a vampire. A reincarnated angel princess witch in love with a vampire and also with a boy witch. And that was when I stopped reading and wished princess-angel-witch-Ana with the weird eyes could get my money back.

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The Fallen Star Series (The Fallen Star & The Underworld) - Jessica Sorensen
(paid $4.36 for the first two books in the series)

Summary (via Amazon): For eighteen year-old Gemma, life has never been normal. Up until recently, she has been incapable of feeling emotion. And when she’s around Alex, the gorgeous new guy at school, she can feel electricity that makes her skin buzz. Not to mention the monsters that haunt her nightmares have crossed over into real-life. But with Alex seeming to hate her and secrets popping up everywhere, Gemma’s life is turning into a chaotic mess. Things that shouldn’t be real suddenly seem to exist. And as her world falls apart, figuring out the secrets of her past becomes a matter of life and death.

My Review: This should have been one book, not two and certainly not four! I thought the concept of someone who couldn’t feel emotion was different and interesting and no sign of angels, witches, or vampires, so it was okay, until chapter two… witches, vampires, and fairies, oh my (and none of it in a good way)! Bad grammar, slow moving story line and dialogue that the writer prefers to summarize rather than type. I got the feeling that Sorensen didn’t know what to do with her characters half of the time. There were a lot of pointless expeditions that did nothing to move the plot along. So the end of book two was the end of this series for me.

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Fall of Angels Series (Branded & Forsaken) - Keary Taylor (paid $2.14 for the first two books in the series)

Summary (via RFS)Jessica's had the nightmares for as long as she can remember. Nightmares of being judged for people who have died, of being branded by the angels. Her friends and family think she's a crazy because of it all. Yet she carries the mark of the condemned, seared into the back of her neck, and hides it and herself away from the world.

But when two men she can't ignore enter her life everything changes, including the nightmares. The two of them couldn't be more different. She will do anything to be with one of them. Even tell him the truth about angels, why she never sleeps, and the scar on the back of her neck. But one of the two has set events into motion what will pull her toward her own judgment and turn her into the object of her greatest fear. 

My Review:  Branded has been reviewed by RFS previously. And as I said before, Mindy had a spot on review.  I got the feeling that Taylor, who may be Jessica Sorensen (see above) writing under a different name for all I can tell, isn't comfortable with dialogue. There is a lot of synopsis of the conversation without actual “he said,” “she said”. Also, Jessica, the protagonist not the writer, takes A LOT of showers. Seriously, this girl needs a hobby and some better decision making abilities. The lack of editing was really annoying, especially how every character says "ya" a lot and "alright". YA and ALRIGHT are not a real words people! I cringe every time one of them pops up on my Kindle screen (this happens A LOT, not alot (alot is also not a word)).

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My Blood Approves Series (My Blood Approves, Fate, Flutter, and Wisdom) - Amanda Hocking  (paid $10.79)  

Summary (via Amazon): Seventeen-year-old Alice Bonham's life feels out of control after she meets Jack. With his fondness for pink Chuck Taylors and New Wave hits aside, Jack's unlike anyone she's ever met. Then she meets his brother, Peter. His eyes pierce through her, and she can barely breathe when he's around. Even though he can't stand the sight of her, she's drawn to him.  But falling for two very different guys isn't even the worst of her problems. Jack and Peter are vampires, and Alice finds herself caught between love and her own blood...

My Review: Total Twilight rip-off. Don’t bother with it unless you want to be disappointed. In my own defense, My Blood Approves was one of the first e-books I bought. It had some decent Amazon reviews, which are completely worthless and untrustworthy (one more reason RFS is awesome). And I kept expecting it to get better. It didn’t.


However Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy (below) was not a complete waste of time.
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The Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Ascend,  and Torn) - Amanda Hocking (paid $7.55)

Summary (via Amazon): When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy discovers her mother might have been right. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - a world both beautiful and frightening, and Wendy's not sure she wants to be a part of it.

My Review: These books have actually been picked up by a real publisher and are set to be re-released in April. I don’t know if any changes are planned, but this was a solid storyline with decent character and plot development. For an inexpensive and mindless read, this series wasn’t a complete miss. Also: no vampires. It was okay. Not great, but worth about what it cost for time and money.




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  The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No: Memoir of a Teenage Mom  - Tracy Engelbrecht  (paid $1.07)

Summary (via Amazon): A sharp, occasionally shocking, memoir that will change how you look at teenage mothers, The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No is told with frank South African humour and refreshingly mature insight. Tracy Engelbrecht tells the story of how she came to find herself pregnant at 15, and how she coped with pregnancy, birth and homework. An eye-opener for teens and their parents alike, as well as a message of hope, empathy and respect for those who have experienced a teenage pregnancy.  No M-TV teen moms, no sugar-coating, no horror stories - just honesty, humility, humour and love. Real life.

My Review:  Tracy has the maturity of a seven year old. Actually, no, I think my seven year old could make better decisions and possibly write a better book (Tracy didn’t write this at 15, by the way). Here is the entire book in two sentences: “It’s not my fault, it just sort of happened and now everyone is being mean to me. Oops I got pregnant again.” (Hmm, where have I heard that before? Oh right, M-TV Teen Mom!)

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In conclusion around $30 and countless minutes of my life were wasted because I was being CHEAP. With e-books, most of the time, you get what you pay for. Click with care.   

Here are some better e-books (all of which I have actually read and would buy again). Most are also available as regular books OR you can use your e-reader and still support independent booksellers by purchasing through these stores!

The Future of Us - Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
The Host - Stephenie Meyer
Blood Magic - Tessa Gratton
One Day - David Nicholls
The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen
Ember - Bettie Sharpe
The 19th Wife - David Ebershoff
Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver, Linger, and Forever) - Maggie Stiefvater 

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