Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An update...

Yes, we are still alive here at Odyssey Reviews, however... barely. Two of our most active reviewers are 'down for the count'--personal matters and family emergencies can do that to people. Odyssey needs reviewers! Badly. If you are interested please contact us using the info from the submission guidelines.

If you have submitted a query and haven't gotten a reply, sorry, but we are doing our best to follow-up. Right now, manpower is so limited, I am only accepting submissions from books that are strictly in our preferred genres, and that have stellar queries. If you have non-fiction, bios, or self-help books, you're not going to be accepted for review. I am just being honest. So if you are contemplating submitting your work for review to Odyssey Reviews, just a warning, we are being extremely selective. Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Supernatural/Horror books are preferred. Your query must be coherent, not too blibber-blabby, and decently written. Keep it simple.

The Management. ;)

Monday, June 29, 2009

InStock Conference Features Successful Self-Published Authors

The InStock Conference premieres July 18, 2009 in San Francisco and focuses on marketing and the business of self-publishing

SAN FRANCISCO, California - InStock, a one-day conference for authors and those interested in self-publishing, will premiere July 18, 2009 in San Francisco. The Instock Conference features panels on topics of interest to self-publishers, with a focus on marketing and the business of self-publishing books.

Speakers will include successful authors and self-publishers, independent publishers, and representatives from the traditional arm of the book industry. The panels and conversations will include information on marketing self-published books, finding an audience, publicity outreach and tactics, product pricing and more.

Speakers include Melinda Roberts, who runs the successful website The Mommy Blog and who has self-published the book Mommy Confidential: Adventures from the Wonderbelly of Motherhood. Ms. Roberts has been quoted in publications including The Washington Times, and recently appeared on Oprah. Also speaking is Deborrah Cooper, also known as “Ms. Heartbeat”, Editorial Director and Columnist for, who has self-published Sucka Free Love: How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly, The Dysfunctional & The Deranged!

The “Getting The Word Out” panel features Micha Berman, author of Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship, which recently was the highest ranking book on Amazon for a title released through the popular self-publishing service; journalist Mark Curtis, who authored Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008; and Patricia Volonakis Davis, Editor-in-Chief of, and author of Harlot's Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece.

Panels will include "Do Judge A Book By Its Cover” which looks at the importance of design in book marketing; "Beyond The Sale" which discusses branding yourself; and "Successful Self-Publishers" which features authors who have effectively and successfully self-published.

A discount rate of $145 is available through June on the website. For further information about the conference schedule, sponsorship opportunities, or to register, please go to the website

CONTACT: Abuzz Productions

Thursday, April 23, 2009

R. Scot Johns‏; The "Saga of Beowulf"

I have now had this book FOREVER! And finally made it through all 600+ pages. Did it take me this long because it was slow or boring? Not at all! It took me that long because it was simply too big to fit in my purse.

Beowulf has long been one of my favorite stories of all time. In eighth grade we had to read the original poem in old English. Even though the language made me want to cry, I still loved the story. I have read and re-read various translations, and stylizations of the tale over the years. There is nothing more thrilling to me then following Beowulf and his men as they face the beast Grendel, then have to do battle with the Sea Witch and finally at the end of his life, to do battle with the Dragon. But in this book there is so much more to the story, so many little gaps filled in, more back story and so much more life to it.

This book, though huge and daunting to look at - is FANTASTIC. If you have ever wanted to read Beowulf, but hated the idea of ancient English verse - THIS is the book you need to read. Honest to the source material, and simple to read and comprehend without a translation key. Even if you love the tale in verse, you should still pick up a copy of this book and re-read it, the story and the character are given a whole new life. Beowulf becomes what we imagined he was between the lines of the old poem.

I have one complaint - and it should give you an idea of how much I love this book - The cover does not do it justice. This book should at least have a faux-leather cover, an epic tale like this deserves better then the 1980's Dungeons and Dragons looking cover it currently has. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

5 of 5 medallions.

Paperback: 640 pages
Publisher: Fantasy Castle Books (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982153805

Carl Wiley; "The Ring of Knowledge"

Prince Corwin, who is without his parents due to their untimely death by the hands of an evil man, is living in a far away kingdom ruled by his Uncle and Aunt. He learns that he is the rightful [heir] to the throne in the kingdom where he was born and decides that he must return there despite possible danger to his own life. Corwin embarks on the return journey accompanied by two young citizens from Plyorth who assist him in overcoming wild obstacles, including coming face-to-face with horrid creatures, faeries and his parents' killer.

The Ring of Knowledge adequately depicts the universal theme of good versus evil and affords young readers a chance to root for the underdog main character as he perseveres through many adversities in his quest to return to his kingdom of Plyorth. Unfortunately, readers may be quite unsettled by the similar nature this story has with the famous Harry Potter series. Specifically, both main characters have deceased parents who were killed by an evil character and both are on a quest to find a specific powerful object with their two friends (one male, one female) at their side through the adventure. Perhaps this was an honest coincidence not purposely intended to mimic the Harry Potter series and ride on it's successful coattails, but the strange similarities makes it hard to concentrate on the unique positive merits in the story.

I give this book 2.5 medallions.

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Eloquent Books (January 19, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606933604

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Odyssey Reviewers... Our Lessons Learned

Once again, Odyssey Reviews is posting a 'harshicle'. Having read a good measure of self-published books for this review site, Odyssey reviewers have learned that there are several common mistakes that a self-published author makes when generating their product. These mistakes will affect your sales, your reviews and your marketability as an author. The more we read, the more compelled we are to note these issues. Gird your loins, authors--and read on. These may seem harsh, but they are helpful tips.

When submitting your book for review:

~ Your query summary should be as compelling as the copy on the cover. Don’t fill it up with character names and silly, irrelevant details that give the whole story away or hang out of context like dangling, freak-limbs. Hack them off.

~ Edited query: If you cannot submit a query that is somewhat free of grammatical errors, it’s likely we won’t want to read the book itself.

~ Please try to form a coherent sentence. Disjointed summaries don’t bode well for the book they’re pitching.

~ Follow the basic guidelines for submissions. We didn’t put the submission guidelines up there as suggestions. No attachments please. Ever.

When you’re hoping to sell your book:

~ Too Much Title
* No matter how much work you put into your book, your title can be an instant turn-on, or turn-off. Having a title that is an epic novel in and of itself is not a good choice. Generally, if you require punctuation in your title, your book either be self-help or probably be re-titled with something catchy and strong.

~ Ridiculous-sounding title that makes no sense...
* Bad idea. What might make 100% sense to you may sound like blather to someone else. Run your title by objective people before you settle on it.

~ Bad Cover Copy
Not unlike your review submission summary, this is what is supposed to sell your book to the reader. If it’s badly written, you’re in trouble. Refer to this post for more details.

~ Bad Cover Art
* I’m sure it’s charming that you have a child or a friend who can do some basic graphic ‘art’ on Photoshop who you'd love to credit; or you have a low-resolution picture of something—you need to put a lot more thought into your cover than just throwing it together. Your cover is your ‘shop window’—it’s what’s supposed to draw your eye. If it looks pixilated, is a Photoshop hack-job, drawn by a second-rate artist or whatever, it will detract from your book more than you can possibly know. Don’t make it too busy, or too over-thought. It needs to make some sense in context of the book too.

There are examples of both really great, and really bad book covers on this review site. Browse away. I’m sure the design alone affects how many people will click the link through to Amazon from here. See these posts for more tips on cover design: Cover Art Article, Interview with a Cover-Art Designer.

~ Lack of editing
* Editing is an old song here at Odyssey Reviews. We are anti-unedited books here. Our belief is that since POD books are more expensive than standard commercial publications that authors owe it to their readers to insure that what they’re paying more for is a professional, well-presented package. MSWord is a fairly helpful tool for spelling, however it misses a lot. You need to come up with creative ways to clean up your manuscript before you publish. Here is a post with some suggestions. We also interviewed an editor who gave some very helpful tips.

~ Lastly, be realistic and objective about your own work—because if you don’t… the reviewers will.
* Ask yourself this: Are your friends and family just being nice? Is my book really any good? It could be like American Idol; where the singer sounds like a cross between a dying cat and a police siren, but their well-meaning family hurts them more than helps them with their encouragement and kindness. You need to know that there is a strong possibility your book just isn’t very good. It could be entertaining to you, but could be impossible to get through for another. Can you look at your book from a marketing perspective? Can you picture people resonating to it?

Be prepared. Reviews can be harsh. Sometimes we will receive a book and it’s so bad, we cannot review it. We’re not haters here at Odyssey; but we are realistic—and we are honest in our reviews, BUT we will not post a review with a less than a 2 medallion rating because we don’t want to be evil. Your book could be that unreadable, that is a distinct possibility. Sometimes, if authors send us a book, and don't see a review, it's probably because the book rated very low. No amount of money paid to marketing companies is going to make it good. It’s painful and harsh when you get bad reviews—but instead of taking it personally, you should take it as a reason to improve as a writer, and reevaluate your style and your voice.

Some people write entirely for themselves; and discover the hard way that other people can’t always sync with their imagination. We recommend all authors considering self-publishing to do a few test-reads with complete strangers; preferably people who know what they’re doing, and allow the readers to give you a strong, objective review. Take classes. Join a writer’s group. Subject yourself to growth—don’t ever assume that just because you wrote a story from the beginning to the end, that you are instantly qualified to publish your book. You owe your book-buyers a little more consideration than that—especially since you’re asking them to pay a lot more for your book than normal books cost.

Read this post to be aware of what's in store when you submit a query to this or any other review site.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Avery Dick; "Dick goes to the Bank"

Avery Dick is a retired special agent who specializes in getting the bad guy and speaking in puns. He smokes, drinks and attempts to womanize... he speaks in bad puns and thinks in repetitive sentences. However he has a job to do, he has been enlisted by the World Bank to head off to Romania - land of vampires and witches - to determine the cause of a sudden epidemic that is killing the locals. Why does the World Bank care about a few Romanian peasants? Because they recently sent them a gift of grain and seed - and the superstitious peasants are blaming the bank for the sudden plague.

What starts out as fairly straight forward ends up a rather dangerous mission for Mr. Dick. Though he never seems overly concerned with his safety, and some of his decision making leaves a little to be desired. This is a short book, only 150 or so pages and can be read in a single sitting. On the whole it is well written, but it is written for a specific type of audience, though it is not laugh out loud funny, I imagine fans of "Ace Ventura" or "The Jerk" would enjoy this book. Not that the book is meant to be silly, it is sort of short attention span - light hearted with a dash of heroics thrown in for good measure. We don't spend a lot of time on description or intense action, the book is first person with Mr. Dick's mind speaking directly to the reader. If bad puns make you groan, steer clear... if you hate repetition - this in not the book for you, as the author ends each of the short chapters with a variation of the same line.

Final summary - read before giving this to the kiddies, as there is murder, profanity and some sexual innuendo. Those looking for a fast, straightforward read that won't take too much out of them or require a whole lot of effort - this is a great relaxing book to pick up. Only a few minor typos and a simple, but clean layout make this a fairly attractive book. 3.5 of 5 medallions.

Publisher: The Larson Agency (October 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615209351
ISBN-13: 978-0615209357

Thursday, January 22, 2009

J. Timothy King; "The Conscience of Abe's Turn:"

Based off of the title of this book ending with "Volume 1, Season 1, episodes 1-4" I am led to believe that there are probably many more books to come in this series. To be honest I don't know if I will read any of the follow up novels.

Short Summary: In a small fictional town, a sheriff holds the town under his thumb by abusing his power and smiting his enemies with brute political and police force. Our four main characters, Ted, Clydene, Mira, and Michael, fight the sheriff's power through protests. They find themselves in a quagmire of trouble as one is falsely arrested. They encounter several individuals who need their help in fighting the Sheriff and his abuse of power.

The writing style in this book flows well and is very easy to read for the most part. At times the technical jargon and step by step wading through of the computer process that Clyde goes through becomes tedious and it becomes quite easy for the reader to tune out. However, on the whole this is a very simple book to get through, and I notice only one typo through the entire book. The cover and printing is attractive enough, and the writer is skilled. At the end of the book I did have trouble when we started leaping backward and forward in time, predominantly because the story had been linear up until the last 50 pages where we begin leaping backward and forward in time for no real discernable purpose. I didn't feel that the "back in time" bit added anything at all to the rest of the story. Perhaps this will become more important in a follow up book; however as a standalone, I felt that it should have been cut because it adds more confusion then important information.

I wish I could rate this book higher, because the writing style is very effective and the author has a wonderful flow of words. The tale itself however was a fairly overblown story that my mind could not completely wrap around. Perhaps it is supposed to be an allegory to other current world events, but for the life of me I can't understand why a group of professionals who are supposed to be so brilliant are holding protests and playing hippy saboteurs rather than just contacting the Feds and getting their problems solved. While I was reading I just kept shaking my head at how overblown the plot seemed to be, and at the same time how self-important the characters were that they were willing to break the law, and endanger themselves rather then just going to the proper authorities and letting them take care of it all. I almost felt that rather then fixing the problems in their little town, they were dragging it out in the attempt to make themselves saviors. Others may not read it that way, but to be honest, it's how it came across to me. As I said, this is a well written book, but in my opinion, it just was not a very interesting book.

3.5 of 5 medallions

The Conscience of Abe's Turn: The Birth of the Conscience, Volume 1 (Season 1, Episodes 1-4)
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: J. Timothy King (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981692508

Ray Spengler; "Not a Good Time to Die"

What is the worst thing about this book? The fact that the synopsis does no justice to the tale contained within. After reading the back of this book I thought to myself - "dear Lord I really don't want to read this" but once I opened it up and started reading, the book was wonderful. Sure the idea is very similar to the movie "The Butterfly Effect", but the story is different enough that there is very little comparison.

A more accurate summary: Douglas has just lost his wife; Jane, to Cancer... in his grief he considers taking his own life, and suddenly discovers that time has stopped... only its two hours before his wife's death. Now he has the ability to go back in time to different scenes in his life and relive them, can he find a way to save her? Or is there a deeper meaning to this sudden gift of time?

So as a reviewer I'm going to tell you, ignore the cover art which makes this look like a gothic horror - there's no horror here. Ignore the title, which sounds like a James Bond film - there's not much action here. And most of all, Ignore that little blurb on the back of the book that makes this sound like a bad sci-fi channel movie. What you DO have here is a story of a man who is very much in love, trying to go back and right the wrongs of his past, to save life of the woman he loves. As we go back in time with him (he's an old man now) there are 35 years of marriage, ups and downs, joy and pain. The readers relive all of this with him, hoping that this time he'll say the right thing, or make the right choice to change the course... or if nothing else to be a better husband. He never doubted his love for her... but when traveling through your life in high speed... your negatives glare out at you. And maybe this time he can to it? His time is running out, and his options are running thin... why would God give him this gift to relive if it wasn't to save her?

Douglas is a very human character... at times we love him, at times we want to slap the bejeezus out of him. Many times we'll wonder why Jane stayed with him at all. The story is very human... something that perhaps we all wish we could do after the loss of a loved one. For a first time author, this is a very good book. As far as an age rating - this one is not for the kiddies, minor instances of foul language, infidelity, a couple of lives lost, some bad behavior, alcohol abuse, basically think of bad things in your life that you wish you could change, and determine if you want your child reading about it. This book is NOT graphic, but the subject material might offend some parents. Also there are religious themes in this book that may upset non-Christians.
Either way, I recommend reading this book.

4.5 of 5 medallions

Not a Good Time to Die
Ray Spengler
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: Infinity Publishing (November 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0741449641

Robert G. Brown; "The Book of Lilith"

I've come to think that author Robert G. Brown might be one of those guys who really likes to hear himself talk. This isn't said with any malice, of course. He’s invested a good deal of his wild ideas and ruminations into this work. It is the product of an active, imaginative and thoughtful mind; taking an existing mythos and making it his own. I normally dislike this genre of book; mostly because they just come off as a blatant show of the author’s brilliance and wit; smug and lofty. But I couldn’t bring myself to hate the Book of Lilith. Trust me, I tried. The truth is, I kind of liked it. I kind of really liked it actually. ::sigh:: I know… The horror!

It’s the dawn of days… and God’s a-creatin’… Contrary to popular belief, God creates Lilith first. Lilith is vastly intelligent, but the moment she opens her eyes she is full of questions and confusion… and then God gives her Adam, a narrow-minded, prideful man, and things just get more impossible for Lilith. Their new home, the Paradise of Eden is a ticking time bomb—and then boom, ground zero—it goes up in a mushroom cloud. The effects of Lilith and Adam’s stormy relationship balloon outwards like a shock wave across the known world and the fallout washes over unsuspecting and unenlightened people.

It really is elegantly written on the most part. A couple of duplicated duplicated words are the only grammatical issues I happened upon. The style and voice is really quite excellent. Lately, I’ve had a hard time keeping focused on reading, yet this book had my attention whenever I had it in my hands. I kept reading it; I wanted to keep reading it, despite the fact that I don’t even like books about spirituality or etudes related to religion beliefs. This book was far from mind-numbing.

Problems? As a mean, I tend to have an issue with men writing in the voice of a woman. Mostly because men tend to write masculine traits into them; including the male sexual being. That irritates me, because there is pretty much always a failure to make it believable. You see, apparently, all it takes is a glance at a ‘well-formed’ turkey neck and wattle to get her motor revving—she doesn’t need anything else. Pardon my crudeness, but it's a thing I find very common in books where men create heroines... They are pretty much men when it comes to the libido. I also found that Lilith's emotional being is a bit stunted. She experiences various moments of deep introspection, and is faced with tragedy and horrors that would break anyone, yet Lilith’s emotional essence just isn’t there save for the occasional breakdown. It is the thing that bugged me the most about this book. Lilith behaved much of the time like a man. Even her motherly instincts were weak. It's possible the author is trying to stay true to the frame of Lilith's various more unseemly incarnations in myth, but still, he could have padded her out a bit more. She is a woman after all; a highly emotional creature.

I confess that for me, the most entertaining part of the book was the introduction; an email supposedly received by the author from a much-molested Iraqi girl who had apparently stumbled across the most profound archaeological and spiritual discovery ever found… That bit had me giggling out loud. It drew me right into the book. It was an intelligent choice to open the book with it.

All in all the Book of Lilith is up there in the ranks of self-published books. The quality of writing, the style and voice of the author made the book quite compelling and a good read. It gets a bit preachy in some areas, but it’s not slathered on too thickly. It did also run on a bit at the end too. A nice neat, elegant exit would have done well to finish up what is in all, a very professional package.

I give this book 4.5 medallions

The Book of Lilith
Robert G. Brown
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: (July 31, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1430322454

Patrick M Garry; "A Bridge Back"

Nate Morrissey has hidden from his life and his past amongst the millions of people in NYC. Now a high profile lawyer, Nate has been asked to take up a new case. This case will lead him back to his hometown of Mount Kelven, a sleepy town he has avoided for over 19 years. He has hidden from that town and everyone in it since the funeral, the accident that changed his life forever, and the event that he was never able to forgive himself for. Now Nate must go back, and dig into the accident that claimed his parent's lives, and destroyed his. But what will he find when he returns after a 19 year absence?

A Bridge Back is a very quick read, the prose flows smoothly allowing the reader to fly through page after page without even noticing it. The characters we encounter are fairly multidimensional, each of them with their little quirks and their own past. Garry (our author) spends much of this book focused on our characters and their inner selves, which I truly enjoy. I wish he had spent a little more time giving physical details about the people and places though that is only a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

In the end this is a very enjoyable book about dealing with the pains of our past, and getting through them. Forgiveness, love, charity, and trying to make a better future rather then running from previous hurts. Being an avid horror and thriller fan, I did not expect to truly enjoy this book, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I would consider it more of a Drama than anything else... I mean sure there is a bit of legal intrigue and some mystery in there, but the focus is on overcoming the past. And in the end who DOESN'T have pains from their past that they would rather just run away from? That is primarily why this book is so accessible.

As far as age ranges go I don't recall any undue profanity. Due to some of the themes involved I would probably hold off on the under 15 crew. This book is geared for adults but should be accessible to 15 and up. If you are a fan of redemption tales, then pick yourself up a copy of this. It is an excellent book with very few flaws. And the flaws it has are so minor that you probably won't even know they are there (example - missing closing parentheses). Again I highly recommend this book, enjoy!

4.5 of 5 medallions

A Bridge Back
Patrick M. Garry
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Inkwater Press (February 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159299332X

Dennis Dufour; "Child of Darkness Child of Light"

I know there is another book with this same title, and no, I haven't read it. But I did read this one, cover to cover, in about 45 minutes.

"NO WAY" you say?

"Yes Way" I reply.

First of all, the book is only 171 pages, and it's not like they packed the text in there tightly. So is it good or bad that I read the whole book while waiting for a meatloaf to cook? I guess it depends on the reader... whoever they are, they will fly from beginning to end. The text flows well, the majority of the characters are stereotypes that we know (sure they are multifaceted stereotypes, but they are stereotypes none the less) so we don't have much trouble figuring out who is the good guy and why we like him.

Short Synopsis (but better than the back of the book): We have a nasty serial killer on the loose, and he has a very specific agenda... harming our hero - Simon Reynolds. Good thing Mr. Reynolds is a detective! We follow Simon through the investigation as the case gets personal, and he discovers that everyone he holds dear may be in jeopardy if he cannot catch the killer... a killer who knows him better than he should.

Ignore the back cover because it makes this book sound like a bad rehash of Law and Order. In a way this IS like most of the cop books/movies you've seen/read. You feel like you know all of the characters, you feel fairly comfortable that you know where this is headed, and right from the beginning you feel safe with how this book is going to turn out. For having a serial killer, the book is very low on the gore scale... though we see one of the murders, the truly disgusting aspects are kept from us. The focus of the book is instead on Simon and his search for the killer.

So is this a good book? I will say that this is a wonderful author capable of writing a very fast paced and fun novel. This book IS fun. Where is the problem? Well, from the second he walked across the page I knew who the killer was... but I thought - maybe he's a red herring... but... he wasn't. There WERE a few red herrings but none jumped out at me like the true killer... which kind of took a lot of the fun out of the ending for me. On the whole this book was very safe, it played it safe in every sense of the word, it never strayed out of it's genre, it never pushed the envelope, and it wrapped up just how the reader wanted it to. Sometimes you need a book like that. Lucky for me I was in the right mood for the book, on a different day I might have hated it. But as it stood, it was a very enjoyable 45 minutes spent reading.

If I could change anything about this book, I would cut out the paragraphs from the serial killer's point of view, and then smash this book together with another as a double feature having both run at about 120 pages or so. That would be in my ideal world. But even if that never happens, this is a fun bus read, or short plane trip read. I wouldn't mind checking out more from Mr. Dufour in the future.

4 of 5 medallions.

Child of Darkness Child of Light
Dennis DuFour
Paperback: 174 pages
Publisher: Trafford Publishing (June 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1425141056