I'd heard good things about David VanDyke, an independent writer who's sold millions of copies, mostly of military sci-fi. But as a free sampler, he offers on Amazon Loose Ends, an apparently atypical work; a modern(ish) day hard-boiled detective novel featuring California "Cal" Corwin, a part-Asian gal who's supposedly a Chandler or Hammet like tough PI.
While certainly competently written in most respects, this is an odd choice of a free sampler. I find the entire premise of the main character a little odd and even off-putting. On top of that, the novel lives up to its title with a strange, anti-climatic conclusion that does, indeed, leave a number of loose ends unresolved.
Of course, maybe there's a reason for this. It's the first in a series, after all. I also got—either very cheap, or they were free when I got them as a promotion—a megapack of the first three Plague Wars novels, which are probably more up my alley, which seem to have been better received, and which probably is a better introduction to VanDyke. All in all, I found Loose Ends to be a good sampler in the sense that it highlighted his skill at writing-craft, certainly, but an odd choice because it's an odd novel with a dubious protagonist main character and a dubious structure and resolution of the plot.
One cute angle, though, was the fact that it takes place a few years ago, and computer geek Mickey, who works for Cal, gets to talk about all kinds of upcoming trends like Facebook, smart-phone navigation, etc. that Cal gets to think skeptically about because it seems to unlikely to her.
Last year, I had a goal of reading more of my collection. 50 books was my goal, but I didn't quite get to 30 when all was said and done. And I added so many free ebooks to my Kindle that I'm fairly certain that at best I broke even, more likely I ended up with a longer to-read list than I started the year with. This year I'm hoping to improve that performance. I've already wrapped up a number of books, especially utilizing my phone (either to listen to a book as an audiobook, or to read it on my Kindle app.) This is convenient, of course, because I almost always have my phone with me, but it's not the same. Sigh. I want to make some more progress in my "actual book" to-read list as well as my digital to-read list. But I'm also enjoying so far discovering a lot of the independent authors on Kindle. Most of what I've read isn't necessarily great—although it isn't necessarily any worse than what's been published by actual publishers, and much of it is among the best stuff I've read in several years. The takeaway, if you need it, is that the publishers as quality gate-keepers is a myth. They don't do anything that I can perceive to filter books for quality. In fact, it's frequently the opposite, as they filter books for ideology which quite often severely impacts the books quality for the worse.