Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More excuses...

Sorry authors, I'm overwhelmed. I'm working through it tiny bit by tiny bit--I have your books, but it's going to be a while before I can actually sit and finish them. I'm the lone reviewer, trying to find time to write myself, to commute, to work at my job, and to deal with all the craptastic wonders of my life. But fear not... I will post again soon.

I hope you all had a delightful holiday. Let's hope this new year will bring something good for all of us.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Layton Green; "The Egyptian"

Dominic Grey is at it again, hunting after the mysterious. In The Egyptian, a secretive substance connected to aging has been stolen from a lab, and Dominic has been hired to find it. Once more, Dominic is carried to all sorts of unexpected places around the globe, and once more, the author hints at the paranormal. He has a new lady-lead, and he is still a slick, modern-day gumshoe with the same demons and the same gritty past driving him forward.

I confess, I was not quite as absorbed in this book as I was in The Summoner. I’m not sure if it’s just my personal stress-levels lately, or it’s just that the suspense was quite as intense as it was in the previous book. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good book. Layton Green did not disappoint me. He upholds his high standards as an independent author, and once again this book is as professional a package one could hope for. Edited beautifully, written beautifully, presented beautifully. Even the cover is better this time around.

Once more, his characters are creepy when they need to be creepy, they’re intriguing when they need to be intriguing, he leaves a great deal to the reader’s imagination, which is wonderful because it plays with the reader’s own demons; which makes it all the more compelling to read. His characters are motivated, written with depth and interest, and yes, sometimes a smidge cliché, but with paranormal gumshoe novels, you have to have a little of the traditional mixed in for good measure. Heh! I enjoyed this book, in spite of my taking forever to get through it (along with all the other books I’ve accepted for review recently).

As an independently published author, Layton Green is quickly establishing himself as a sure thing when it comes to producing a quality product for your bookshelf or your eReader. You can’t go wrong with this author. He cares about what he’s writing, he cares how he writes, he cares about how the manuscript is treated, and he cares that his readers, who he appreciates as his bread and butter, receive something of quality from him so they come back. That puts him in a special class of Self-Published author. These guys are few and far between, so if you find an independent author that does it right, stick with them. I can say that for all the five-medallion authors on Odyssey.

I give this book five medallions. I didn’t give it all the bells and whistles that The Summoner earned, because I just didn’t get quite as absorbed in this book as I did the Summoner. I blazed through that book and was watching the little progress bar move towards the last page with increasing sadness. But The Egyption still earned five Odyssey medallions nonetheless—and it comes highly recommended regardless of my own lack of enthusiasm these days.

Note to authors and readers:
I am slowly plugging my way through a short list of books as we speak, but things are slow-going these days when I don’t have backup reviewers nor the time to spend reading. But I am working on it, I promise. Authors who have submitted materials waiting, I do have your stuff, I am reading, but it’s going to be a bit before I can find my stride again. Life gets in the way sometimes. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marcia Colette; "Bittersweet"

It can’t be said that Bittersweet lacks originality—because it certainly does not. With concepts like demon-like hags, demon-demons, psychokinetic powered-schizophrenics, voodoo priestesses and all number of other supernatural things, the book has its own flavor, for sure. A lot of the familiar, overly-covered stuff are just peripherals in this book on the most part. Vampires and werewolves are mere mentions. This book focuses on a whole new crowd of big bad.

Phaedra is a teenaged girl burdened with the responsibility of being the parent in her household, which is a difficult weight to bear on its own. She takes care of her little sister and her mother. However the challenges don’t end there. For this unfortunate girl, her mother is a crazed schizophrenic with psychokinetic powers who must be locked in the attic because consumed by her madness; she is bent on harming her children. In her brief moments of lucidity, she works with Phaedra to help arrange for finances and planning but leaves everything mostly up to her daughter. Phaedra too shares the same powers which she can barely control. She fears her future holds little more than succumbing to same madness as her mother and dismisses any hope for herself, moving forward only for the sake of her little sister.

The only thing that brings normality to the household and gives Phaedra a break are the Bittersweet leaves that she obtains from a magical healer. They bring her mother respite from her madness only temporarily, but Phaedra and her little sister can enjoy a brief taste of what life could be like were they normal. Abandoned by the eldest son and the father, the three women manage to scrape by on their own. This is largely due to Phaedra’s efforts to construct a façade of normality. They avoid raising too many eyebrows or attracting attention from the real world. But everything is tenuous at best.

But things get a lot worse when Phaedra’s brother reappears. He claims to know a cure for their mother’s illness and brings Phaedra a promise of a future she is to incredulous to hope for. Phaedra discovers that Kurt’s promises of positive change come with a price; for at his heels; an army of trouble and danger have followed in his wake threatening to destroy everything and everyone.

One thing I can say outright is that Miss Colette is an excellent writer. She is by far a better writer than Amanda Hocking or Lauren Burd. However, she is not always consistent and that is a bit of a bummer. It took me a while to work my way through this book. It had its moments where I couldn’t put it down, and moments when I could barely keep my interest engaged and found myself skipping pages of conversations and realizing that even doing that, I was still not losing any vital information in the progression of the story; which isn’t good. But she is not the first author to make this mistake.

It’s a lesson all indie authors should learn: scenes are deleted for a reason. Sometimes authors get too hung up on interactions between characters; they work too hard on the smoldering attractions, the exchange of witty banter or whatnot and they lose track of the story and often numb the reader’s brain and lose their interest. Authors who write for themselves rather than their readers often make this blunder. Edit yourselves! Read and cut out what isn’t immediately relevant to your story, cut out what has already been established, cut out the conversations and interactions that add nothing to the character’s personalities, story or the whole. If the story can live without it, and the characters lose nothing if it’s taken away, then it probably shouldn’t be here. That’s my advice.

In this book there are some editing issues, however they are fairly minor. Some misused words, some missing words; a couple sentences that look like chunks of them were accidentally cut out. But all in all, as packages go; this one is professional and the writing is quite high-quality. There’s a gritty quality to it that brings it down to the real world. Phaedra’s motives are believable, and the characters are who the author says they are and remain so throughout the book.

Don’t get me wrong, Bittersweet is not a bad book by any means, it just wasn’t a knock-your-socks-off excellent OMG I can’t believe this is an indie-book. But what I think does stand out is the author’s skill with language and description. I’m confident that the author’s future endeavors will only get better and better. I give this book 4 medallions.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Being a cry-baby will not sell books.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been sent links to various negative review articles by other reviewers where the authors being reviewed popped a vein in reaction to it. This is a rare occurence at Odyssey Reviews, mostly because of our policy of not posting reviews for anything that earns only 2 medallions or lower. I'm sure if we panned the bad books in our posted reviews, we'd get more negative reactions from some authors. I usually just tell the author in the kindest way that their book was not readable. I did however have one author react like such a big baby to the review; I changed some of the ways we do things around here at Odyssey Reviews, starting by disabling comments and writing this rather harsh post:

The hard truth is this; if you write to publish, you are exposing yourself to opinion. Period. If you don’t like negative opinions, then you should either make sure that you write like Austen, Steinbeck, Twain, Shelley, Dickenson, Whitman, Keats (None of whom were immune to criticism and negative reviews, by the way), or don’t write at all. My point is... Criticism Happens people! You are giving your work to the public and they are going to read it. Some may love it, some may despise it; it is par for the course; and authors, if you are not prepared to take criticism, you shouldn’t be publishing your work! It’s as simple as that.

It does absolutely NOTHING for your credibility to send lengthy, whining emails to your reviewers listing all the wonderful things other readers said or trying to sway the opinion of your reviewer by imposing other views on them. It’s not going to happen; you can’t MAKE someone like your stuff. I can assure all authors that reviewers are not purposefully sitting about, wringing their hands and smacking their lips; delighting in the notion of tearing your book to shreds for no good reason. If a reviewer is making a criticism, it’s 99.99999999% likely they have been given a reason to. Some reviewers might be more finicky than others, granted, but they are not setting out to make you cry. They are setting out to give an objective, but still personal view of a book.

Posting lengthy diatribe-comments on blog-reviews, or writing novella-length blog posts in rebuttal, arguing with the reviewer’s final opinion makes you look like a huge, snotty-nosed, blubbering baby and the readers who come along will be doubly-convinced not to buy your book. I personally have been known to buy a book in spite of some harsh reviews.

Let’s face it, if everyone listened to negative reviews, would Stephanie Meyer be a successful as she is? I don’t think so. People are still downloading Jessica Black's 'Friday' song in spite of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of well-deserved negative reviews.

If the author has sold the package to me correctly, then even with a few negative words about it, I will still take that extra step and decide for myself. Amanda Hocking’s troll books are a perfect example of that. I read a number of bad reviews before I got them. But buy them I did. I downloaded all three books and found them worthy of 4 medallions. But if one of those bad reviews had a personal response from Amanda Hocking in the comments, decrying the review and proclaiming that the reviewer is victimizing her by forming and declaring unjust opinions about her work, and following her comments with nine more comments which are pastes from other reviews that were positive... Yeah... I’d arch my brow and shake my head and NOT buy anything by her ever again.

By acting that way, the author is blatantly telling their potential readers that they don’t trust them to decide for themselves and what’s worse; they are telling the reader that if they don’t like the book and they think it was bad, then the reader is wrong, wrong, wrong... Not exactly the best weay to show respect one's readers, is it?

If someone gives your book a negative review, to coin a perfectly apt internet acronym... STFU. Let your book stand up for itself. One or two negative reviews isn't going to be its end. If it gets nothing but negative reviews... then maybe that is destiny telling you that you should take up some other form of creative art.