Ebook Review Central, Amber Quill, Astraea, Liquid Silver, Red Sage, Riptide, April 2012

Welcome to the Omnibus publisher April wrap-up post for Ebook Review Central. This is always the last post covering the month (in this case, April 2012) and it’s the one covering the most publishers in one swell foop.

This time round, we have five publishers all in one go. The Amber Quill Press coverage includes whichever imprint Amber happens to publish under. Mostly it’s been Amber Allure, their M/M imprint, with the occasional title from either Amber Heat or, this month,  Dear Viking by Lori Soard, a historical/inspirational title from their non-erotic imprint, Amber Quill itself.

The other publishers in the omnibus with new titles in April are Astraea Press, Liquid Silver Books, Red Sage Publishing, and Riptide Publishing. The Curiosity Quills database was also updated this month, but they didn’t publish any new titles in April. Don’t worry, they’ve got new stuff in May. (I peeked ahead. I do that with mysteries, too.)

I’m going to do something different with this week’s featured books. There are five publishers in this week’s edition. I am going to try to spread the feature around more.

Going by sheer number of reviews alone, I could feature all three Riptide titles every time. The only time someone else would get featured would be the months Riptide only published two titles. I say this as an observer of the evidence at hand. It’s either good books, good PR, or good both.

But in order to make sure other books get some play, there have to be some other considerations. And one of the reasons I started ERC was to provide a place for librarians to find reviews of ebook-only titles. Some of the featured books need to be from publishers that libraries can get, if those books did well.

Above all the featured books and this featured article, have to be interesting to readers.

So with those things in mind, this week’s featured books are the following:

The number one book was the Riptide title I couldn’t resist, it’s the Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 by Andrea Speed. All of the Josh of the Damned books (Pretty Monsters, Peek-a-Boo) just sound like an old-school B grade Sunday movie matinee horror feature, as lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the description of the Triple Feature short stories goes it one better. A character in one of the stories is nicknamed “Professor Bobo”, a direct nod to MST3K. One of the other short stories is “I Was Cthulhu’s Love Slave”. Really? Too funny. Josh, the damned guy, who is human, works in a convenience store. His boyfriend is a vampire. But most of the weird problems Josh has working the night shift are human. Of course they are. Well, maybe except for the lovesick yeti.

The second feature story is Cinderella. There’s always a Cinderella. There always has been, and always will be. It’s one of those tropes that has been imprinted in our collective DNA. But the version of Cinderella in Sinders and Ash by Tara Lain is quite a bit different from the usual. Like many modern versions, it’s a bit difficult to figure out who rescues whom. Whether Ashton Armitage, the son of the fifth richest man in America rescues Mark “Sinders” Sintorella from a life working as a housekeeper in a ritzy resort–or whether Sinders rescues Ash from a life of not just hiding in the closet but also stultifying boredom. And it’s still a fairy tale, complete with a fairy godfather this time, of course. The mistaken identity part is even still there, helped by a smidgen of cross-dressing.

I picked the third book because it is from a publisher that is available to libraries and because it received a very favorable review from RT Book Reviews. (And yes, I liked it too.) The Watchmaker’s Lady by Heather Massey is the first book in her Clockpunk Trilogy. Clockpunk is steampunk with very small parts, in case you’re wondering about the term. So instead of big steam engines, think very small mechanical devices, doing very wicked things. The Watchmaker’s Lady is about a watchmaker who uses his skills to make an advanced automata, and uses his watchmaking skills to make clockwork devices for ladies’ intimate pleasures, so he can fund his experiments with his automata. Then things get very, very out of hand. So to speak. The twist at the end of the story is quite a surprise.

That’s a wrap for this week’s featured titles. We’ll be back next week with another edition of Ebook Review Central, taking a look at the Carina Press May books.

I’d love to hear from readers. Do you find Ebook Review Central useful? Interesting? Helpful?

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, April 2012

The Carina Press April 2012 list proves, as Carina does every month, that there are high-quality titles published in ebook-only.

It also proves that there is something out there for every taste and variation of romance fiction lover, from science fiction romance to paranormal to male/male to historical to retro to contemporary. Even for those who can’t get enough of Spartacus (the recent TV series, not the old movie).

It does seem like there are some trends.

Looking at both Carina and Samhain, I’ve noticed that the Retro romances don’t get a lot of new reviews.  How that translates to sales is something that I’ll freely admit I wonder about. The reviews for Susan Edwards’s White Series are mostly, but not exclusively, from RT Book Reviews and All About Romance‘s backfiles; they are reviews for the original release of the books. This is also true for the Samhain Retro romances.

The Roman Empire period may be making a comeback. Surrender to the Roman is one of several “blood and sandals” romances that’s come out recently. Spartacus may have started (or resurrected) a sub-genre. There’s a post at Book Lovers Inc. that plays with this question.

New/old sub-genre questions aside, this week’s featured titles are from romance sub-genres that are a little more familiar. Which is pretty interesting, considering that not a single one takes place in a here-and-now that’s exactly the one we know!
The third featured title this month is the erotic historical romance Improper Relations by Juliana Ross. Unlike a lot of historicals that take place in England, this is Victorian Era rather than Regency. Equally unusual, this one is not about a noble rake sweeping a complete innocent off her feet. Not that Leo isn’t a rake, well, not exactly. He appears to be one. It’s just that Hannah is only sort of innocent. She’s a widow. She simply doesn’t know what pleasure is. After watching Leo debauch a housemaid in the library (to both parties clear mutual enjoyment!), Hannah finds herself willing to let Leo teach her everything she’s missed about pleasure. They both learn a few other lessons, ones that neither of them expect. This novella is short, erotic, and surprisingly sweet at the end.

The second featured title is the paranormal entry in this week’s list. Darkest Caress by Kaylea Cross. An ancient magical race, the Empowered, is here on Earth to fight on the side of Good in the coming battle against the forces of evil. While they’re waiting for that battle, they need a place to stay. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the realtor that the leader of those good guys, Daegan Blackwell, hires to help him find some property, turns out to be a long-lost member of the Empowered herself. And his destined mate. And she doesn’t believe him until she becomes a target for the evildoers herself. Reviewers compare this one to Kresley Cole, Lara Adrian and even J.R. Ward.

But this week’s big winner was Ava March’s Fortune Hunter, the second book in her Brook St. Trilogy. This is a male/male Regency and did even better in the reviews than the first book, Thief. Readers definitely love this series, and are snapping up each book as it comes out. The biggest complaint I’m seeing is that because these are novellas, the stories are too short! But Fortune Hunter is the story of Oscar and Julian. Julian Parker is from the poor, American branch of the Parker family. His name gives him entry in wealthy English society, but nothing more. He come to England to find a rich wife to support him in style, even though he knows he prefers men. Oscar Woodhaven is rich, exceedingly rich, but all that his wealth has bought him is loneliness and grasping relatives. He needs Julian’s friendship as much as he needs his love. They have found what they need and want in each other, if they can figure out a way to keep what they have. Especially in the face of a society that will more than condemn them.

So this week we have the Regency, the Victorian Age, and an paranormal version of now where the Empowered fight the darkness. The contemporaries just didn’t stand a chance this month. Next month may be different. Come back and see!

And come back next Monday to check out the Dreamspinner Press April features. We’ll be back!


Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, February 2012

We’re back at Ebook Review Central to take a look at the Dreamspinner Press titles from February 2012. But before we do that, I’d like to give a shout-out to Ariel Tachna from Dreamspinner for her session at the Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference on March 7.

Ariel said that one of the big reasons Dreamspinner placed all of their titles on NetGalley was to give librarians a chance to review the entire Dreamspinner catalog every month.

Ebook Review Central was created as a way for librarians to have “one-stop-shopping” for reviews of ebook-only or ebook-predominately titles. Over the last few months, I’ve discovered that a lot of readers, authors and publishers are finding it useful. I’m very happy with that!

Back to the February featured titles…

The first feature is Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane. There was absolutely no question that this would be number one. Every review is near or at the top of the reviewer’s rating scale, and there is a reason. This book isn’t just a story, this one seems to reach out and grab the heartstrings of every person who reads it. Because this one evokes personal stories. This is about one young man who is trying, so hard, to take care of everyone in his life but himself. He’s leading a double life, and pretending he’s not gay. He has a fiancé he loves. His life is a struggle on every level, financially, educationally, with his family. When his two lives collide, he almost doesn’t make it. And the story of his nearly not surviving that collision is what touches all the reviewers.

Ty’s Obsession by SJD Peterson is a story with a decidedly different flavor. This contemporary western BDSM tale is the second featured story of the month. Ty’s story is the third tale in Peterson’s Whispering Pines Ranch series (after Lorcan’s Desire and Quinn’s Need) and the reviewers say that the crew just gets better with each story. Also that the story needs to be read in order, so be prepared to get them all, since Peterson leaves loose ends dangling that lead to the next book. But series fans are more than happy to dangle, eagerly waiting for that next book.

Last, I’m going to give the third featured place to a January book. There weren’t a lot of reviews for this one when the January 2012 ERC for Dreamspinner went to “press” but in between, the word-of-mouth has clearly gone around, and it’s very, very good.

Bonds of Earth by G. N. Chevalier is a book about not just surviving a war, but also about surviving the peace. And about having dreams above your station, and trying to make them come true, and what happens when a war shatters you. And how rebuilding someone else helps you rebuild yourself. The clear message that war is always hell, and that not all wounds are physical, since the war in this story is the first “War to End All Wars”, the one history now labels World War I. And added to all of that the love story of two gay men who fall in love at a time when imprisonment is still a very real possibility.

Bonds of Earth sounds like an absolutely fantastic read, but I agree with a comment that several reviewers mentioned, that the cover doesn’t do it justice.

But that’s it for this week. Please join me again next week at Ebook Review Central. March Madness will continue with the February featured titles from Samhain Publishing.


Ebook Review Central, Amber Quill, Astraea Press, Liquid Silver Books, Riptide Publishing, January 2012

And another month ends here at Ebook Review Central. As I searched for reviews for the January titles from Amber Quill, Astraea Press, Liquid Silver Books, and Riptide Publishing, I had a few moments where I feared that January was going to be going out with more of a whimper than a bang.

No wait, it’s March that does the in like a lion, out like a lamb thing.

The issue is that I have good news, and I very nearly had bad news.

The good news was that this list came closer than ever to 100% of the titles getting reviewed. Only two books out of all the lists were missed, and they were from different publishers. This is excellent and is a testament to the hard work that the review coordinators are doing.

On my now infamous other hand, until nearly the end of my search, I was afraid that the reviewers were still sleeping off their holiday excesses well into January. Almost every title received a review, but, and you knew that but was coming, almost every title received just that, a, meaning one, review. Occasionally two.

That doesn’t give me enough to pick a feature on.

Just as I was reaching the end of the lists, the featured books practically jumped out at me.    These three titles not only had more than just one or two reviews, they each had several very enthusiastic reviews!

The other interesting thing about this set of featured titles is that they are all male/male romances. Because this group of publishers has titles all over the romance spectrum, I never know what types of romance will capture reviewers’ attention in any month. This month, it was all m/m romance.

The first two featured titles are both from Amber Quill’s Amber Allure imprint, and from their Hot College Daze series.

The title that generated the most reviewing heat is Tailor Made by Josephine Myles. This is a story about how a good man can make a bad boy change for the better, and not just when it comes to love and sex and sleeping around. College is about growing up, and the two young men in this story start out as complete opposites, but by the end, grow towards each other, in spite of their differences. One reviewer summed it up by saying “this story just left me smiling when I finished it”.

Number two on the hit parade is Lou Harper’s Academic Pursuits. Academic Pursuits is slightly different. It’s told from the first-person perspective, and reads like someone’s diary, or as if someone is telling you a dirty story from their college days. And it’s pretty naughty story about a very charming guy who likes to chase, and seduce, supposedly straight guys. Life is working really well for him in college until someone new starts chasing him. Reviewers mostly found this book amusing, but opinions divided depending on whether or not the reviewer liked the main character.

Riptide Publishing, with only two books in January, still managed to get one into the featured books this month. Rhi Etzweiler’s Blacker than Black ghosted into the number three slot with this paranormal tale of vampires who feed off the life energy of other beings. Black and Jhez are Nightwalkers; they turn tricks in order to bring fresh victims for the vamps, and in return, they get to live. Until one vamp wants them to spy on his own kind. Then the vamps start dying, and all hell breaks loose. Well, looser than it already was.  Energy vampires in an urban fantasy setting. No wonder the reviewers thought this was cool. It just plain sounds cool.

That’s a wrap on another edition of Ebook Review Central. We’ll be back next week with the first February ERC. We’ll see what Carina Press published in February 2012, and what the reviewers had to say about it.

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

And now libraries know that Random House is planning to use real silver for that lining.

The problem with Random House’s plan is that libraries don’t have all that much silver to give them  in this era of shrinking budgets.

On February 2, Random House, the only one of the “Big 6” publishers to provide ebooks to libraries without restrictions, made an announcement that they would continue their generous policy, but that there would be a price hike to deal with some of the issues surrounding permanent access to ebooks.

Most libraries probably expected the price to rise somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%. Maybe double.

The hammer fell March 1. Hammer as in auction hammer. Or the hammer of doom.

Yesterday, Random House tripled the prices of their ebooks. You read that right. An ebook that cost a library $15 on Monday, costs $45 today. The libraries are reeling from the sticker shock.

But what will this mean?

Library budgets are not growing, they are flat or shrinking. Public libraries are creatures of local government, and tax revenues at the local government level are still sucky. Let’s be blunt here.

If the per-title price rises significantly, as it has just done. and the budget stays flat, what will happen? In most cases, libraries will buy fewer titles with the same dollars. Some will rearrange their budgets as much as they can, but very, very few will be able to triple their ebook budgets.

What gets purchased in this scenario? High-demand titles get purchased, so the hold queues get filled. Or at least stay tamed. John Grisham does not lose many library sales out of this.

What doesn’t get purchased? Mid-list authors and debut authors, because there is very little money left in the budget with which to take a chance. And the next John Grisham and Nora Roberts and James Patterson have to come from somewhere. Some of them will come from self-publication Cinderella stories like Amanda Hocking, but some will still come from the mid-list. If they get the chance.

Unlike V.C. Andrews, most authors do not write from beyond the grave. What are the publishers planning to do when the current crop of bestselling juggernauts decide to retire?  The number one way that readers decide to purchase a book is because they liked the author’s last book. The trick seems to be to get people to read an author the first time. And with the demise of more and more bricks-and-mortar bookstores, that trick is getting harder all the time.

But protecting their authors is not what this move is about. Revenue numbers from 2011 are starting to come in from the major publishers, and the picture that emerges is very interesting. Sales of print are down, digital is up and profitability is up. Think about it for a minute. Digital books have no inventory, no print costs, and very low distribution costs. Most of the infrastructure to produce them already exists. For the publisher, they are almost pure profit.

Profitability is in no way a bad thing. It’s required for a business to remain in business. But let’s not pretend. Random House is charging more for their ebooks to libraries because Random House believes:

that pricing to libraries must account for the higher value of this institutional model, which permits e-books to be repeatedly circulated without limitation. The library e-book and the lending privileges it allows enables many more readers to enjoy that copy than a typical consumer copy. Therefore, Random House believes it has greater value, and should be priced accordingly.

In other words, because they can.