Zoe Winters’s “Kept”

by Zoe Winters
published by IncuBooks

Zoe is an independent publisher I “met” by happenstance when I got soundly thrashed on Dear Author for suggesting that a multi-published author whose 3-book SERIES contract had been canceled after book 2 (leaving her fans out in the cold with characters they loved) actually self-publish the third book in the series (you know, since her rights had reverted back to her and she already has a fan base salivating for it). Good gravy, you’d’a thunk I’d said the Rapture was coming tomorrow and they’d all be left behind and have 666 burned into their foreheads bwahahahahaha burn in hell losers.

Anyhoo, as Bob Ross would say, it was a happy accident.

Kept is a free novella you can find at her site (link above) in PDF form. You can find it at Amazon in Kindle for 80¢ and you can find it on Smashwords in various formats for those of us who bitch if we don’t get it the way we want it. Somebody call me a waaaaahmbulance.

And really, “free” is my second-favorite four-letter f-word.

Here’s the blurb:

Greta is a werecat whose tribe plans to sacrifice her during the next full moon. Her only hope for survival is Dayne, a sorcerer who once massacred most of the tribe. What’s that thing they say about the enemy of your enemy?

Now, I don’t do much paranormal and I really don’t like shapeshifters, but throw the word “sorcerer” or “wizard” or “warlock” at me and I’ll take a second look. And I’m glad I did.

Beefs first:

The story was a little choppy in moments of transition, but I’ve seen that so much lately that it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to and, I’m guessing, readers are being taught to get used to it and, by extension, writers are doing it more.

Also, the story could’ve been longer with more explanation of the world. I (Random Reader who likes really really really long books) would have liked that. Let me get you some salt for that opinion.

Good stuff:

What glimpses of their world I got, I liked. I could tell it wasn’t a half-assed world half-thunk-up on the fly, and that it had depth and detail underneath. (Repeat: wanted more.)

I really enjoyed the hero’s crankiness and the fact that he was “old” (how old we’re not told, but I inferred around a century). I liked that when the hero and heroine had sex pretty nearly upfront it was because of species-specific hormone issues (i.e., cat in heat) that she usually controls with medicine, but didn’t have her medicine with her.

I laughed a lot through this book. The banter is witty and cute, seems natural to both of them, and gave the characters the depth that natural humor brings to people.

The cover’s pretty and the interior design is good. In short, it’s right up there with a lot of the novellas in the anthologies by traditional publishers that are on bookstore shelves and much better than a lot of other stuff I’ve read lately from the e-presses that I paid for. I enjoyed myself.

Coulda been longer. Did I say that?

So. If you get it from Smashwords, leave a tip, okay?

Book Review: The Truth About Roxy

The Truth About Roxy
by Jenny Gilliam
published by The Wild Rose Press

I like the longer single-title contemporary romance (no suspense, thanks, and the category lengths are just way too short) and lately, the ones I really like have been coming out of the smaller e-presses. They’re not as well edited as I’d like, but they’re fun reads whose story lines seem to stick with me quite a while.

The Truth About Roxy was a light, fun read that still managed to make me laugh and cry. I’ve read another of this author’s non-suspense novels (Letting Luce) and it was just as light and fun. Even *I*, lover of all alpha heroes monied, adore that Jenny’s characters are normal people like me, with normal-people jobs and normal-people problems.

Here’s the blurb:

Roxy Palmer is a walking, breathing cliché. And darned tired of it. Working as the assistant librarian in her small, Southern home town, Roxy also anonymously pens the local love column, ASK PAULA ROCKWELL–Thorton, Georgia’s answer to Dear Abby. But when the door leading to Roxy’s lifetime dream is slammed in her face by one of the good ol’ boys, Roxy brings out the big guns–and turns the genteel town upside down with her racier, feminist, home-wrecking new format. Paula Rockwell is making Sheriff Noah Kennedy’s life crazy. He’s got angry husbands lined around the block, demanding the cancellation of the column, fights breaking out and women catching their boyfriends’ trucks on fire. If he ever gets his hands on that woman… But he’s got his hands FULL of Roxy at the moment, and if he ever discovers the truth about Roxy, all hell will break loose.

Beefs first:

I thought Noah’s extreme reaction to Roxy’s coming-out (as it were) was too much, because he’d known her all his life and he should’ve understood her better.

And oh, that cover, bless their hearts. [Insert longsuffering sigh here.]

Good stuff:

Again, fun, light romp. The characters were engaging and I believed in the nutjobs and the goofy backwater Southern town because they were drawn so vividly.

I had a really good time with this book, and that’s all I care about.

More reviews for The Proviso!

Wow. It doesn’t rain but it pours and I so want to thank the reviewers for their time!

First up is from R.J. Keller’s blog:

My faithful readers know I’m always looking for something more than just a good book. I want a book that moves me, or makes me think about or look at Stuff in a way I never have before. And I recently found such a book. […] This is a deep, intelligent book. It’s a long’un, yes, but so engaging that I didn’t want to put it down. The characters are real, the writing is top-notch…oh, and it’s damn hot, too!

One of the best books I’ve read in a very, VERY long time. Highly recommended.

And second is from Julie Weight’s blog:

This books moves at a slower pace than I’m used to but it’s been a long time since I picked up and read a lengthy, layered story that delves into the details of the characters. As I read it and sometimes got annoyed with the slow pace, I remembered that I loved Shogun – and if you’ve read Shogun you know how involved that story is! And this story takes the time to acquaint you with the characters. […]

[…] in my opinion this is a character-driven story. Any story about religion, money, politics and sex is about entanglements, complications, lies, deceit, manipulation, good and evil – and this The Proviso delivers in spades while delving into the human side of the main characters. My favorite part of the cover says what this story is really about: “…embroiled as they are in their war, the last thing they expect to find on the battlefield is love.” […]

Bottom line? Big thumbs up for this first novel by new author Moriah Jovan.

Julie also notes:

I have a print copy of the book and the first thing you notice is it’s size. It’s huge. The second thing you notice is that it’s absolutely gorgeous. The cover art is extraordinary, in my opinion. If you walked into a bookstore and this was on the table inside the door, you wouldn’t be able to resist walking over and running your hand over the cover before you flip it over to see the back (also beautiful artwork). When you lay it open, the inside is as gorgeous and rich as the cover and there are actual chapter titles, something you rarely see any more in a book.

The print copy is expensive. I know the author believes in e-books and of course the e-book version is much more affordable. However, for those of us who like the tangible feel of a print book, this one is worth it (and would make an excellent gift for any reader on your list).

Emphasis mine.

And really, you have to read Keller’s post on “more than just a good book” (linked above) because I so identified with it as a reader. Those are the books I read as a teenager and they’ve gotten more and more scarce over time. I’m still looking for those books, though now I have a head start since I’ve got a copy of Shogun in my hands.

Thank you, ladies!

You can purchase The Proviso at B10 Mediaworx in print ($27.99, and we do offer gift wrapping) and ebook ($8.99). It’s also available for the Kindle and soon you’ll be able to purchase it in the iTunes store as an iApp (we’ll let you know).

The Proviso reviews start coming in…

…and it’s good!

SamQ read and enjoyed.

I had never read a romance book like this one before; one that mixed Mormonism, Libertarianism, politics, Wall Street, and love, with a hot, at times blunt, dash of sex. It deals with pretty weighty themes and moral tightropes, yet never in a preachy way. The author has fairly intelligent characters and expects her reader to be at least as intelligent. That’s refreshing too. The meandering into theories and philosophies is also fascinating and is a pleasurable stimulation for the synapses.

Thank you for reading it, Sam.

Book Review: Do the Math

Do the Math
by Philip B. Persinger
published by iUniverse

I read a review of this book that pissed me off, but the blurb looked interesting and so I went forth to iUniverse (yes, it’s independently published) to purchase the ebook. I will spare you the nightmare of actually getting the book, but iUniverse? Bite me. Fortunately, the author came through for me when I copied him on my bitchmail to iUniverse (which they still haven’t responded to). Anyway, he got me a print copy of his book posthaste and so I was a fan on that basis alone.

Here’s the blurb:

What could be worse than losing the love of your life? Getting her back!

William Teale is a brilliant professor of mathematics. His theory of inevitability posits that any human action, no matter how insignificant, might result in a disproportionately huge calamity.

His wife, Virginia “Faye” Warner, is a world-famous romance novelist who specializes in reuniting soul mates after a tragic and prolonged separation. According to her math, “one past and two hearts plus one love equals four-ever.” The Teale-Warner marriage is a thing of geometric and artistic perfection, a melding of the heart and the brain-amour and algebra.

But when Faye’s ghostwriter suffers a nervous breakdown and shakes all the arrows out of Cupid’s quiver, Faye reintroduces her husband to love. Unfortunately, it’s not with herself, but with the woman William had loved and lost years ago. Love is about to clash with inevitability, and it’s unclear which will emerge victorious.

Told in the off-beat voice of William’s graduate intern, Roger, Do the Math reveals the curious relationship between logic and love and the delightful consequences of taking a chance.

Only one bad point and it’s technical: The funky paragraph breaks in dialog. Oh, I don’t mean the looooong monologues that have to be broken, but, for example:

“Her home away from home,” he answered. “Room 407. New Coventry Medical Center. Only the best.”

“By the way,” he added as he picked up Claire’s drink and toasted me with it. “You did very well tonight, Roger.”

That unnecessary split happened enough that it was annoying, but certainly not enough to diminish the overall fantasticity of this novel. If you ever needed a posterbook for the validity of self-publishing, this is it.

And one aside, which I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek or not. A vague reference is made to the movie Poltergeist, but the story is set in 1978 and that movie didn’t come out until 1982. I could see how that could go either way, so I’m giving the author the benefit of the doubt.

This is the story of 50-year-old professor of mathematics William Teale and Virginia, his romance-novel-writer wife and Claire, Teale’s lost love from 25 years ago. It’s told from the point of view of his 25-year-old intern, Roger, in first person. And oh, it takes place in 1978. Did I say that already?

This book’s kinda sorta billed as a romance. I think. I’m not really sure. And I don’t really know what it is anyway except hilarious. I know it’s supposed to be poignant and bittersweet. I know it’s supposed to be about Teale’s relationship with his wife and his lost love. Really, I do know that.

But what you have to know going in is that I have an eccentric sense of humor and a wee bit of a crush on higher math. Can’t add or subtract without a calculator (multiplication and long division are simply out of the question) and I really just don’t care for discrete math much, but after some struggle and time, I’m a fair hand at simpler calculus. It’s like the bad boy you just want to take home and try to tame.

Okay, so what that’s got to do with the price of tea in China is this: If you don’t get the math jokes, it’s okay. It’s still funny. If you do, it’s ROFLMAO funny. The author conflates mathematics and romance in such a bizarre way I can’t help but chortle just thinking about it. For instance, Teale tries to figure out what to do about his problem using set theory in a discussion with Roger:

“It’s about balancing the quality of the empty set against one with two elements,” I started out. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he said.

Relieved by that concession, I followed up.

“Then how can a set of two elements be qualitatively equivalent to an empty set?”

He smiled wearily. “Unexplored territory, isn’t it?”

He thought a moment longer. “It’s the wasteland,” he said. “We understand the null set. There’s nothing there. But a set of two elements which has no connection, or, if connected, no contiguousness, that is, ultimately a set that is in and of itself empty, isn’t it?”

In other words, using set theory, Teale equates his relationship with his wife (two elements in one set that are disconnected) to a set with nothing in it.

All the little oddball characters that populate a college campus/faculty/town are fondly drawn and you can immediately find the equivalents of these people in the memories of your own college experience. All the subplots come together nicely in one tight, tidy little knot at the end (although I’ll admit I knew where one of them was going on page 23, and sure enough).

Now, about that “romance novels are just a formula” business: That is repeated ad nauseam throughout the tale, but funny enough, even though they spend valuable computer time (vacuum tubes! keypunch cards!) trying to figure it out, they read from a how-to-write-romance manual and follow it strictly, and yet…they never manage to figure it out, disproving their own premise that there’s a real formula to it.

I had no problem with this facet for three reasons: (1) Though all the characters (including the romance novel writer and her ghostwriter) think this, it doesn’t seem to be thought of as a bad thing; it’s simply a fact of their life and needs to be adhered to as any other product specification, as they’re up against a deadline, and (2) This is set in 1978, remember. The specifications outlined are, to the best of my recollection, exactly how romances were written in the late ’70s, so I can’t really go throwing stones at fact (or at least my perception of fact), and (3) For all the “formula” talk, it was still respectful of the genre and its fans.

Some passages that made me howl (and wake up the Tax Deducations) got their pages dog-eared. (The horrors!) Examples (although I must warn you that my sense of humor is a bit, ah, weird, and these are somewhat out of context so they might not translate):

[Sample from a technical writer for a nuclear reactor handbook applying for the job of a romance novelist ghostwriter]:

“…pump type can be determined by identifying flange at top of housing. Inductive cooling pump has a rigid pressure release vent hanging down perpendicularly on flange centerline. Whereas action release coil pump is unique because of the two nipples protruding from either side directly above the emergency bleed valve.”


“A warning. The manifold might be hot. Use caution when sliding the spanner between the opened blades, as there is a danger of electrical arcing… It might be necessary to remove the probe from the main sheath and reinsert with proper lubrication… If vibration continues, apply appropriate torque to the uppermost junction point until release is achieved…”

[Romance novelist] closed the booklet with a rude snap.

“There has been a terrible misunderstanding here.”

“I’m sorry?” said Claire.

“This seems so–how should I put it? Technical.”

Even though it is in no real way similar, it vaguely reminded me of Neal Stephenson’s The Big U. Loved the premise, loved the voice, loved the characters and the humor is dry enough to make you beg for water.

And, oh, the author didn’t assume the reader would be 5 and need everything explained.