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.