Indie Book Review: Empath by Becca J Campbell

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Review:

This is like a double-dose of New Adult – Jade has to not only deal with the adjustment to moving from her parents’ home and going to college, but she also has to adjust to her hypersensitivity to people’s emotions. She’s been isolated for most of her life because of her unique ability and has trouble putting up the floodgates against a class full of nervousness, excitement, rage, fear and frustration. This book has a lot of self-discovery, a lot of rocky starts, and a lot of heart-to-hearts. I found a lot to enjoy in this book.

The ‘flawed’ idea was a fresh take on gifted people. Each character had intriguing abnormalities that hindered more than helped them, hence the whole ‘not a gift, it’s a curse’ tagline. This isn’t a paranormal story with ‘magic’ per se, and at first glance their ‘flaws’ have no use – they’re certainly not superpowers! That’s what kept it interesting though, the attitude that “this is what I’ve been given, and now I need to cope with it.”

The writing was comfortably paced from multiple perspectives, so the reader gets an insight into all the major players. The romance was appropriately romantic without being saccharine (so it’s my kind of romance), and I found the antagonist slant a surprising dose of variety. Becca J Campbell has rolled a lot of genres into this one book, adding the following minor genres to the majors of New Adult Paranormal Romance: family drama, crime, adventure, thriller, and self-discovery.

I’m going to read the sequel. Recommended for lovers of new adult with a fresh take on the paranormal.

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Author Goodreads Page.

Author Blog.

Amazon buy link.

Kobo buy link.

Empath, by Becca J Campbell

Flawed #1

Book Length: 298 pages

New Adult Paranormal Romance

According to the Blurb:

Supernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse.

Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her. Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college-and the world-with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.

When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.

Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Indie Book Review: But Thomas Aiken Is Dead (Part 1) by Alex McKechnie

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Review:

But Thomas Aiken Is Dead deals with a lot of ideas, all of them fascinating. The story is written two ways: first, as an interrogation transcript from the future; second, as a diary written by a distraught father in the present-day.

It is deliciously trippy finding out how these two documents are related.

Atia is a sort of futuristic archaeologist, looking back on our time with increasing fascination. She and her species is much more than just robots, but I’ll let you read the book to discover that for yourself. She is feisty and opinionated in the face of her arrest, unabashed about her desire to be more ‘human’ (though that’s not what she calls us).

As the story unfolds, so does the lore, and it is FASCINATING. I’m fully geeking out about this because it’s pretty high-concept but it’s presented in a way that I can understand. This RARELY HAPPENS! Shit usually goes over my head but Alex McKechnie has managed to explain it in layman’s terms without making the future sound any less amazingly complex.

Think Matrix 2, but the ending makes sense.

I cannot wait for part 2. This is right up my alley. Highly recommended.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Author Goodreads Page.

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But Thomas Aiken Is Dead (Part 1), by Alex McKechnie

Part 1/3

Book Length: 70 pages

Speculative Fiction (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

“Sometimes blunt tools construct beautiful objects.”

Two lovers are divided by seven hundred years; one living just a few steps from the end of history, the other already long dead. Present day, Thomas Aiken has little else left to live for but his journalist daughter. When she disappears without warning, he devotes himself to securing her return. He abandons life as an architect in exchange for obsessively collecting evidence and, in the evenings, writes her letters which he will deliver on her safe return.

Seven hundred years later, Atia – a conscious AI entity, discovers Aiken’s letters. She understands Aiken’s grief well enough, she’s lost a child herself. More than that, the Cadence, her home, is falling into anarchy. Pining for a time when life was imperfect and fragile, she insists on presenting as an original biological human. Fuelled by long-dead Aiken’s search for his daughter, she incites a rebellion that will alter life’s course on Earth forever.

Indie Book Review: Shallow Waters by @RebeccaJBradley

Review:

Crime isn’t really my genre (I like cozy mysteries, not so much the gritty stuff), but since I follow Rebecca Bradley on wordpress, I was interested in reading what she’d written and decided to pick up her book. Shallow Waters sucked me right into the cold and gritty world of British police procedurals, and I was surprised at how quickly my reading experience turned from a ‘just out of curiosity’ to ‘I have to know what happens next!’ The atmosphere and the characters were done so well, and the crime was so compelling: there was so little information at the start, then it seemed to be an open-and-shut case before it spiralled into something much darker and sinister. I really enjoyed getting to know the Detective-Inspector and her world. There was just the right amount of personal drama and drive, and the ending was suitably tragic.

I’ve become attached to DI Hannah Robbins, so I’m looking forward to where this series goes. Even though crime isn’t really my thing, I found a lot to enjoy here. Has it changed my attitude to the whole genre? No, not really, but I ‘get’ it now, and I find police-procedurals more appealing than I did before.

Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in crime.

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Shallow Waters, by Rebecca Bradley

Book Length: 370 pages

Police Procedural Crime (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

‘A gritty police procedural, with no-holds barred and a shocking insight to the reality of some. Dark and disturbing, yet exceptionally compelling.’ – Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead.

‘Tense, compelling and utterly absorbing. DI Hannah Robbins is a force to be reckoned with.’ – Jane Isaac, author of The Truth Will Out.

When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

Indie Book Review: Rangers by Chloe Gardner

Review:

Being a long time Supernatural fan, as I read Rangers I immediately recognised the inspiration behind the story. This isn’t just a fanfic though – the lore and characters are their own, and I had a lot of fun reading the paranormal adventures the twins and their tag-along got up to.

I did find the writing a little clunky, but the imagination was there, and I’ll take imagination over fluid writing any day. Having said that, I felt I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to, but I was still able to enjoy the ride. So many monsters, so much magic, so much action! I am interested in seeing where the series goes…

Recommended for fans of Supernatural. I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Author Site.

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Rangers, by Chloe Gardner

Sam and Sam #1

Book Length: 414 pages

Paranormal Adventure (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Sam and Jason have been at this a long time, and they’re some of the best out there. Gremlins, goblins, ghosts of all kind, vampires, even the yeti that time in Cleveland, they go where they’re needed and they kill what needs killed. It’s that simple. And it’s a pretty good life, really.

Then there’s the girl. Samantha. She’s feisty and difficult and she knows next to nothing about what they do, but she’s pretty handy with a hatchet and seems to just keep tagging along with them, city after city, witch after ghost after spirit, despite Jason’s best efforts to ditch her along the way. If he’d had any idea just how complicated she was about to make their lives, he probably would have left her in Georgia.

It’s too bad, really. Sam appears to be in love with her.

Character Interview with @SusanLattwein ‘s Lily from the Arafura Series

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My first ever character interview is with Lily, the boisterous and excitable sister of protagonist Kat Howard from Arafura.

Thanks for joining me Lily. Now, I’ve gotten to know your sister quite well these past few months, and she is obviously passionately in love with Adam. What’s your attitude to wuv, twue wuv? Are you going to search for it, or wait for it to fall in your lap?

True love? No such thing, babe! My sister, Kat, thinks there is, even love at first sight (I guess Adam is a catch but he’s not as hot as Ben). Knights in shining armour on their trusty steeds don’t exist, just ordinary (some less than ordinary) dudes trying to navigate their boats like the rest of us. Let’s face it, we all have issues. I do love Ben, (you have me worried now that I’m not demonstrative enough in public…). I guess he’s the one, but after watching my dad come out of the closet, well, that kind of threw me, made me careful, you know? I might have to talk to Susan, address that in the third book of the series….

Any previous boyfriends we should know about? Has anyone come close to being ‘the one’?

 I did date a Captain in the army for a couple of years before Ben. He was Hollywood handsome, flew planes, drove a sports car, but he was emotionally distant, reminded me of a tantalising chocolate with a rock hard caramel filling—not worth the effort or the calories. That’s where I learnt it’s not all about looks, and I’m not proud the way I ended it. Looking back, I was a bit of a bitch and have had the odd nightmare apologising to him.  

 ‘The one?’ Ben ticks a lot of boxes. Is there such a thing as ‘the one’, except in fiction?

 Okay, I know you and Ben are together, but your relationship reminds me of the ‘comfortable’ relationship Kat had with her (now) ex. Sorry Ben! Look, clearly you guys have a good, solid relationship but… ROMANCE, y’know?

 You guys seem a little more like really good friends with benefits.

 You can tell me to back off any time. And, I know, here I am, saying romance isn’t my thing either, but I’d rather not be in a relationship at all. Wow, okay, hope I haven’t ticked you off too bad.

 You’re a straight talker like me, Marigold. I like that.

 There’s a lot going on behind the scenes you don’t know about.

 Arafura is Kat’s story, I get that. Secretly, I think it’s ended up that way because Susan has the hots for Adam. She goes for the charming, rugged , playful, damaged types. For authors, types like Ben are boring. The worst that’s ever happened to Ben was getting tomato on his school lunches.

 As for Ben and my relationship – here’s the real deal. You remember the night Kat turned up at my bungalow on the dot of midnight with Adam? Well, Ben was  pressed up behind me at the front door, his hands discretely hidden under my sarong, exploring, doing things that happen in erotic fiction, not romantic suspense. Forget friends with benefits, that man has an imagination with benefits! I couldn’t talk, so of course the whole scene had to be rewritten.

 No there’s nothing wrong with Ben and my sex life, Kat is the prude, or should I say was? I’ve just got to get over my commitment phobia—you’ve made me realise that’s where I might be a little like Lucas? Oh, God no….

Hm, interesting! But  let’s go to another topic now. What was it like growing up in Darwin? Besides stinking hot.

Darwin is so hot and tropical, it’s cool. Temperatures mostly fluctuate between 30-32 degrees Celsius year round.

Kat and I are both only children, so when she came to live with us after her parents died, my best friend moved in and became my sister. Kat was real quiet when she first came, and it took her months to relax. My parents had an open house,  visitors all the time, a great pool, that’s part of the reason Dad wanted to start his  boutique resort. He loves socialising.

We went to school in bare feet, with Jess Mauboy’s cousin actually. There was a huge mixture of cultures in friends at school, no one cared back then where you were from. I liked that. In all honesty though, some kids had scary home lives.

 Darwin was and still can be red neck, but we weren’t in that orbit, thank goodness. You find your own level anywhere, I guess.

 Was trying to rescue your sister as fun as you made it out to be?

I was freaking terrified, Marigold. But with Ben, Dad and Robert there I felt nothing could go too wrong. Call me naive, but Mel’s chilli spray is ace, I keep some in my handbag all the time now.

Yes, rescuing Kat and Adam was dangerous that night, but remember I was waiting in Dad’s boat, not being shot at in the dinghy. I was on a high, and seeing Kat safe and in one piece was a huge relief.

Got any career aspirations? Big dreams?

I’m studying Tourism and Hospitality through Charles Darwin Uni, don’t think Susan mentioned that (it’s all about Kat and Adam, Adam and Kat…not that I mind, I know my place as a secondary character) 

Big dreams? What a scary question. Have kids, with Ben? Maintain a happy, healthy family, a fulfilling relationship with my partner?

I’ve inherited my father’s head for business so may buy him out one day.

Kat wants to help Indigenous kids with their literacy—I’d like to be involved in that although I don’t have a teaching degree (I think teachers, oh and police, are under-valued and underpaid).

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 And the most important question, are you going to get a dog? C’mon…

No way, do you know how often Biscuit is at our place? That sooky mutt has issues the way he sucks up to Ben and Adam. I give him treats and he doesn’t love me half as much as he should.

Kat and my friend, you know Sophie? Her Jack Russell is having puppies, so don’t tempt me…

Thanks for answering my questions, Lily! You’ve revealed a lot, and I’m curious to find out what happens in your future (and I appreciate you didn’t mind me crossing a line there with your personal life). Here’s to more Arafura adventures!

Indie Book Review: Shattered, by Becky Durfee

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Review:

Yet again Becky Durfee has managed to create a fresh and compelling mystery. This time, the spirit that visits Jenny Watkins can talk, and talks quite a lot, but Jenny can’t understand Russian! Going by the few words she can pick up, she once again uses her amateur detective skills to pursue justice for the dead.

While I had a niggling issue with how the protagonist searched for clues in the last book, this time Jenny’s got her head on straight. We also get to see some finality to what Jenny wants out of her marriage (that’s to say, she wants it to end), and it’s great to see Jenny take another step towards becoming the person she wants to be.

We also finally get to meet Jenny’s family, and get some shocking revelations to boot!

Another exciting and enthralling mystery with the most relatable woman in the world. Have I mentioned I love this series?

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Author Goodreads Page.

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Shattered, by Becky Durfee

Jenny Watkins Mysteries #3

Book Length: 176 pages

Paranormal Cozy Mystery (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Psychic Jenny Watkins’ world has been turned upside down. Everything she once knew to be fact has come into question, and she is faced with choices that could impact the rest of her life.

As she deals with the crisis in her personal life, she is contacted by a young murder victim who lived in America but spoke no English. Relying solely on timing and intuition, Jenny tries to interpret the clues and find justice for a woman stripped of life too soon.

Children’s Book Review: the Gift of the Quoxxel

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Review:

This was a delightful read, the kind where the reading experience is just as fun as the plot. As you can probably tell by the book cover, this story screams ‘quirky’, and I don’t think I could adequately describe the book any more than the blurb (see below). It reminded me a little of Terry Pratchett’s tongue-in-cheek style (which I love) so I was so glad I decided to read this (after receiving a request from the author).

The ending was a little disappointing, but I suspect it’s being set up for a sequel, or at least another book set in the same universe. Although kids of 10-12yrs will love this book, it’s my kind of read too J

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you are interested in reading this book, the author is accepting requests for those interested in posting a review. You can contact him at richard.p.titus <at> gmail.com

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The Gift of the Quoxxel, by Richard Titus (author and illustrator)

Book Length: 121 pages

Humorous Fantasy (Children’s Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

King Norr of Nibb was not content. He longed to know of the world beyond his tiny, island kingdom. Why travel elsewhere, said his people. What place could possibly be more perfect than Nibb?

What frustrated Norr even more, outsiders never came to Nibb. Foreign ships approached, hesitated, then sailed away. Why was that?

And that wasn’t the only mystery.

Who was the little girl who sang, but would not speak?

What kind of monster lurked in waters along the shore?

Had Dr Hinkus been devoured by woolly drumbkins?

And most importantly, what’s for lunch?

Drearily perfect Nibb was about to turn upside down. As King Norr often said, it’s enough to give one “haddocks.”

Children’s Book Review: Runaway Smile by Nicholas C. Rossis

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Review:

It’s a little different reading and reviewing a children’s book as an adult. I did go back and read some old Secret Seven books when I bought the hardcopies two years ago, and I guess Runaway Smile is roughly the same age-group(?) Although, kids all read at different levels, don’t they?

Runaway Smile was a fun blend of everyday life with regular doses of the fantastical. The illustrations were a real treat, really adding to the story without being imposing. The poem at the end was a nice touch, but I did I wish it would’ve rhymed more.

I know for a fact my nine-year-old self would detest (if she knew the word) the dog being referred to as ‘it’. That’s just a personal thing, since to me ‘it’ indicates an inanimate object without feelings, but then, some people prefer to use ‘it’ as it’s neither masculine nor feminine. I just know what the nine-year-old in me thinks, and she thinks it’s mean to call a dog ‘it’.

That’s such a minor gripe though, and the book is a fun, short magical read for bedtime. The ending was especially sweet, and I’d like to see what the writer and illustrator come up with in their next collaboration.

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Author Goodreads Page.

Author Blog where you can read it online for free!

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Runaway Smile, by Nicholas C Rossis (author) and Dimitris Fousekis (illustrator)

Book Length: 64 pages

Children’s Fiction

According to the Blurb:

“I woke up this morning and I had lost my smile and it wasn’t my fault and I looked everywhere and it was gone. Then I met a workman and a king and the best salesman in the world and a clown and no-one wanted to give me theirs. At school, I asked Miss to give me hers, but she gave us a pop quiz instead, and then no-one was smiling and…”

A little boy wakes up in the morning and realizes he has lost his smile. After spending the entire day trying to find it, he learns the truth behind smiles: the only real smiles are the shared ones.

Indie Book Review: Nine Lives of Adam Blake by Ryan Gladney

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Review:

This is a different sort of time-travel book, one where the main character, upon his death, gets transported back in his own lifetime to his twelve-year old self. Adam Blake gets to go through his life again and again, making new discoveries and pursuits in order to be the best he could be, thinking that that would be the path to end his (quite literal) life cycle. But then, what is the ‘best’ we can be?

I was hooked by the mystery presented in this book. Every life he lived was very different, mostly from the choices he made, but then the plot thickens when there are changes in the world that cannot be contributed to Adam and his actions. He explores all possible causes for this by pursuing spiritual, religious and scientific theories. I really connected with Adam’s story. He was an understandably flawed person in his first life (which I always like, since none of us are perfect), and all the characters made up a tangible, interesting world.

This is a shorter sort of book, and I loved it. I fell right into the ripping yarn, and ate up all the contemplations on life, how it works, and what we choose to do with it. A great story wrapped in some very interesting ideas. Looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next.

Highly recommended, especially for people who like genre-defying books.

I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ryan Gladney has also given me permission to post his email and invite readers to email him if they would like the same arrangement (he provides a free ecopy of his book, and all you have to do it review it honestly once you’ve read it)! Email him at gladney.ryan <at> gmail.com

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Author Goodreads Page.

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The Nine Lives of Adam Blake, by Ryan Gladney

Book Length: 218 pages / ~40k words

Sci-fi/Time-travelly with Romance (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Adam Blake knows what fate awaits him after death. He has died before, and will die again, and always it’s the same. For Adam, there is no heaven, no hell, no reincarnation, or cold, final sleep. When he dies, his life flashes before his eyes; it rushes backward—nothing skipped or overlooked—until it stops, suddenly, at age twelve, one week after he had mysteriously disappeared in the woods behind his childhood home. Then, he wakes up. Adam is cursed—or blessed—to relive the same life again and again, from this moment onward, regardless of how he lives, who he becomes, or what ultimately causes next his demise. He is free to right past wrongs, avoid past mistakes, pursue any interest and chase any dream. But the longer Adam lives, the less anything matters but answers. He must know: Why is he stuck in this loop? What is its cause? How will it end? And what awaits him on the other side of death when it finally does?

Self-Publishing Data: Free Promotion Results

For the past ten days I put my book up for free on as many retailers as I could in celebration of my new cover designed by Emma Wakeling:

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I really wanted to see if I could shift 100 copies, and thanks to everyone who helped publicise it, 120 copies were picked up!

What’s interesting about these results is when I compare them to Charlotte Cyprus’ results. Charlotte Cyprus is also a self-published author, but she is enrolled in KDP Select, and it definitely seems (just by comparing our two sets of data) that KDP Select does help new authors promote books. Having shifted 5x the number of copies as me, that data doesn’t lie!

Of course, her book could just be appealing to more people than mine. Our books have more differences than similarities, I think.

The other downside to being non-exclusive to Amazon is that Amazon doesn’t allow free ebooks on its site UNLESS you’re KDP Select, and then you have five days every month or something where you can elect to put your book up for free. So no free sales via Amazon for me.

Having said that, I’m still content to not be Amazon-exclusive. It’s just what I feel more comfortable about. I’m a little attached to Smashwords, because it is a bit of a ‘free-for-all’ environment, and I know if I want to push some boundaries with my stories, there will always be someone else on there who has gone further than me. That reassures me, in a weird sort of way.

I also like the reporting Smashwords does, and how it gathers data from the other major retailers under their premium service plan:

Smashwordsresults

The only downside is that Kobo doesn’t report it’s free book sales to smashwords, but I also have an account with Kobo so I can check those numbers (I only sold 5 books through Kobo).

I was surprised about Barnes and Noble. Being Australian, I was only vaguely aware of it, but I guess there are quite a few people out there with Nooks.

So I learnt some things with this experiment. As always, I am willing to provide a free ecopy of my book in exchange for an honest review. For now though, the price is going back up, and then some. Comparing the length of my book to other books of my length, my book was very cheap, but it wasn’t garnering any sales. Maybe $0.99 gave the impression a 75k word book wasn’t going to be any good? Regardless, I have decided to increase the price to be on par with other similar books, so The Black Swan Inheritance is now $2.99 at all major retailers…

Although with some retailers the price change is taking a while to kick in. Barnes and Noble, for instance, is still selling my book for free. Give it a day. *shrug*

At least now with the price increase I have other options when I decide to next put my book on sale. I can do half-price, drop it to 99cents, or go for free again.

As a footnote, a few other people have added my book to their TBR on goodreads, and I now have 10 ratings and 7 reviews on the site! Amazon has 7 reviews up (with some reviewers different to the goodreads’ reviewers), and 1 review on Barnes and Noble 🙂 All up, 10 different people have written reviews on my book across the different sites (and some blogs!)!

Sequel status: 67k words out of approx 80k. Downhill run!

So that’s been my experience of my first sale. I think I’ve waffled enough now.

MdD