Thursday, September 27, 2007

Author Notice

Yes, I *am* still alive and kicking. Unfortunately I'm down to just ME for reviewers. My sister just called in "Not Interested" because of the issues affecting our family right now, and my other reviewer Kris has been overwhelmed with work. So I've now taken on a new reviewer, my friend Robert, who is about to receive a couple of thick, backlogged books, and hopefully we'll get the momentum going again.

I apologize for the delay, I am working through the stack as best I can considering the time constraints. I will resume submissions when I am through this pile of books, I promise. A number of you have yet to get a response from me at all, but please know I am not ignoring you out of cruelty; it's out of necessity. :)

Odyssey Reviews is still reviewing; albeit slowly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Michelle LeBlanc; Belt Buckles & Pajamas

In the book Belt Buckles & Pajamas, you are introduced to the main character Daphne and you learn very quickly where she is and why she is there. Daphne’s universe is a mental institution. Daphne’s friends and fellow patients orbit around her—each one with their own demons and inner-turmoil haunting them. Their universe is disrupted by the arrival of a new Therapist. Andie is a stark contrast to her stoic and regimented predecessor, Martin, and she has a way of reaching these lost, harrowed souls that he never had.

There are the archetypes one expects in an institution like this; the sex-addict, the paranoid, the nearly catatonic, the one who sees invisible things; telling from the title; one can easily surmise Daphne’s issues. The author touches on this sensitive issue with finesse, while exploring the madness of the others with a humorous eye.

You begin to discover the depth of Daphne’s pain, and the events that brought it to her. As you read, you watch her; under Andie’s careful guidance begin the process of healing and coming to terms with her past. Daphne’s growing self-acceptance alters her perspective about her universe; including the people who surround her.

Belt Buckles & Pajamas in my eyes is the beginning of an insightful book. The first draft which needs to be fleshed out into something greater. I was a bit put off by the pat characters; the seemingly stereotypical nature of each patient. They seemed sometimes only two-dimensional and lacked depth to be truly believable. I feel like not enough time was spent further exploring Daphne’s healing process, and that it was too easily resolved.

It is still a good read; and easy one as well; no flourish or wordiness complicates the book; it still communicates volumes in far too few pages. I give this book 3.5 medallions.

Author: Michelle LeBlanc
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Kanapolis Fog Publishing Emporium (May 31, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN: 0615147143

Thursday, September 13, 2007

An Invitation and a Heads-up.

Greetings readers/writers/reviewers.

I wanted to drop a quick note to reassure everyone that we are indeed still at it here at Odyssey Reviews. One of our reviewers is down for the count, and we siblings have been preoccupied with some private family matters that have just begun to settle down, so we will be reading furiously to catch up. We ask the submitting authors who haven't received any reply from us to allow us some more patience at this time--we have been waylaid by at least a week and a half by impromptu flights across the country.

In the meantime, I've set up a "Reviewer Ring' (see below) and I invite my fellow review sites to please submit their site(s) to the ring. I've spent some time following the footsteps of some of our authors, and direct-linked some of the review sites I found on my hunt, but I would like to see those in the web-ring as well. It will help the authors to find us better.

A new review is coming soon; maybe two plus an interview with a book-cover designer. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Note to Submitting Authors

Odyssey Reviews is not going to be accepting further submissions until we have worked through the majority of our current pending reviews. You may submit your work to our site following the usual guidelines, however you will not receive an answer for up to a week or more. If you have any questions, feel free to submit those to our submission email, and those we can answer immediately.

Thank you for your patience.

John Lawson; "Witch Ember"

Author John Lawson brings us “Witch Ember”; a gritty, dark fantasy set in a creatively crafted world where people are born with tiny shards or ‘embers’ which lend them magical powers. Esmeree, the primary character is born with a large piece of this ember, and unknowingly possesses tremendous powers; however she is also unfortunately an orphaned child of ‘the Mill’ where she grows up knowing only the horrors of prostitution, drugs and violence. Her role models are an assortment of unsavory adults, with only one or two creditable souls to help her survive. She is also surrounded by a collection of youths who are also part of this dismal, dirty world. Her greatest aspiration is to become a more refined, personal prostitute/concubine for the city’s richest; it is her sheltered view of the world and her ignorance of her own power and potential that makes her ambition so limited. You watch her grow, and with it, her world as well. It starts focused on the mill and its scurrying, grimy inhabitants and broadens slowly as the story goes along. You learn as Esmeree learns.

You will find that Esmeree is a plucky character, and she successfully carries the reader through this very thick novel as she overcomes each terrible experience, and slowly begins to discover who she is, where she must go, and the extent of her ‘ember’s power’. She is thoroughly likable, and despite how casually she perceives the trauma of her daily life, she has an honourable sort of soul, and she makes others around her better as well.

The author did a commendable job showing Esmeree's personal growth, and wrote a believable world imbued with the same political and faith-based upheavals as our own. The detail in this book is broad and you can get lost in it occasionally. It is a dark, coarse sort of book, I will not fail to mention that. The sexual content is explicit and without sugar-coating, and the violence is graphic and vivid. Those of you that are squeamish may not care for the content of Witch Ember.

As a reviewer, I do have some criticisms of this unusually tidy, well-put together novel. The author obviously enjoyed interspersing his many invented words into the book. He definitely took his time to create a world complete with its own dialects and slang. You can’t miss these words; they are all italicized and infused with a přöfůsĭŏn of šỳmboŀś to make them appear exotic. Frankly, as a reader, all it did was make it distracting. This was really unnecessary and it does nothing for the flow of the book when you constantly have to stop, flip through the index, find the word and its meaning, and then find where you left off. And doing it again and again (for it is a sizable index) really just made me want to put the book down and go read something less arduous, like War and Peace. It nearly ruined the book for me, and that is a lot considering that this is a really good book. I think the language was overdone, and unnecessary for a story that can carry itself perfectly well without it.

This is definitely the neat, seamless work of a technical writer. I usually tend to look for errors and such when reading, as do the other reviewers here at Odyssey, and despite the symbols and the distracting language, I could find little to pick apart when it came to the quality of the writing, the cleanliness of the manuscript, and the author’s ability to keep you riveted even through the slow bits and the index references.

I have to give Witch Ember five medallions. ONLY because I think it’s a notable work of self-published writing, BUT if I were feeling less generous, I’d take a half or whole medallion away just for the time I had to spend looking up words.

Paperback: 489 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (May 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1591290384
ISBN-13: 978-1591290384