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A review of “Fugue” by J. Joseph Wright

Another review! This time it’s not a novel but rather a novella or novelette, "Fugue," by J. Joseph Wright. I should say right off that this novelette was a gift from Mr. Wright to me, no strings attached. I didn’t promise a good review in exchange for the novelette. I didn’t even promise a review at all.

"Fugue" is a very nicely done horror story, building to a disturbing conclusion. Mr. Wright starts the tension early and doesn’t let up. This is a thoroughly satisfying and thoroughly scary story.

As always, I won’t give much synopsis. That policy might be an especially good idea when reviewing a story like this one. Paul Smith has moved into a new apartment. He gradually seems to become obsessed with the couple in the next apartment, particularly the wife. Truly, if I tell you much more, I’ll spoil the story.

There are a few sentences that could benefit from another glance by an editor. There are a couple of places where the wrong word is used. These things happen, in traditionally published, professionally edited works as well as in indie works. I notice them and mention them. Are they enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this story? Not noticeably.

There were also a few places where I thought the writer had made some mistakes in POV (point of view). Later I realised that, no, what I’d thought were mistakes were Mr. Wright being twisty. I do so enjoy being wrong!

If you are in the mood for a very tense, nerve-rattling, lip-gnawing piece of horror fiction, "Fugue" is an excellent choice. I highly recommend it. I also look forward to reading more of Joseph Wright’s books. He has a real gift for story-telling.

Maybe don’t read this novella the first night after you’ve moved into a new apartment. Just sayin’.

This excellent horror read is available at Amazon for Kindle.

A review of “Careless Talk” by John M. Dow

A one-word review of this book? Terrific.

You want more than one word? Okay, I’m glad to oblige. This book, the first of the Ciriath Cycle by John M. Dow, is a masterful blend of paranormal, epic historical, supernatural, romance, spiced with a dash of horror. It’s so good I read it in small doses, wanting to prolong the pleasure of the book as long as possible. Mr. Dow is a skillful wielder of metaphor and his imagery is always precise, never ham-handed or overdone. The characters in this book are full-fleshed and well-drawn, three-dimensional and alive on the page (or the e-reader as the case may be).

I don’t like to give much in the way of synopsis because I get annoyed when I read reviews that give away the store.  But I will say a little. In this book, there are two forces at work, the Protectorate and the Opposition, with an uneasy Truce between the two. James, one of the First—an Immortal being who can create and destroy worlds—and his companion of three millennia, who now goes by the name of Emily, must confront James’ unaccountable attraction to a young woman, Dawn. How they finally deal with the seemingly unsolvable problem leads to a stunning conclusion and a stirring lead-in for the second book.

Frankly, I squealed, “No!” out loud at the moment when one character makes a supreme sacrifice for the sake of another. It was perfectly logical and in character. And it broke my heart. I loved it.

American readers, be aware that Mr. Dow is a Scot. If you think a word is misspelled (say, for example, “foetal” as in “foetal position”) think again. That’s not a misspelling, no matter what my own spell-check thinks. It’s perfectly correct for British, Scottish, Canadian, etc. usage. An awful lot of British books are now being “Americanized” for American consumption, and we are not accustomed to seeing British spellings. It’s a pet peeve of mine, as a matter of fact, and a reason we are sometimes so provincial. We also sometimes fuss at British authors for “misspelling” words when they’re just not using American English. C’mon, people, it was their language first.  Share.

And speaking of Americanisms, I have (of course) one little gripe. Mr. Dow places one memorable section of “Careless Talk” in East Texas. He has a waitress, Rose McIvor, say, “Hey, Billy, that’s me done.” These words do not trip lightly from an American tongue. An American would be more likely to say, “I’m outta here,” or the very ungrammatical but equally common, “I’m gone.”

I don’t really have a star system for this blog at this time, but I would highly, highly recommend this book.

It’s available at Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords and Amazon (paperback)

I should also add that my copy was a gift from John Dow and that it was not given to me with any strings attached. I didn’t even promise to review it at all, much less give it a good review. And in case I have not made myself quite clear, I loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the second book.

A Reviewer Shouldn’t Notice Grammar Errors? Since When?

I wrote, a month or so ago, a review of an excellent horror novel, “From Within.” The review was published on The View From My Kindle.  It can be found here. I gave the book a good review. I’ve promoted the book on my Twitter, my Facebook, and now here. I have told everybody in Internet-world how much I loved “From Within.”

Someone, however, commented that he thought I spent too much time carping about grammar and punctuation errors. I did mention some errors, true. I also gave the book four-and-a-half of a possible five stars. I praised the book’s many strengths. Should I have ignored the few weaknesses? I think not.

I believe a reviewer should note any grammatical, spelling, misused words, and punctuation errors because a reader will. Most readers will not be too bothered by a few goofs. A book that is full of them, though, will annoy even the most grammar unaware reader eventually. It will annoy some of us rather quickly.

Indie or self-published books must be as polished, as perfect, as well-written, as thoroughly edited as we can possibly make them. Why? Because otherwise they are apt to be swallowed up by what Joe Konrath calls the tsunami of crap. Speaking of Joe, his blog should be a must-read for any indie writer. Find it right here.

Traditional publishers seek any excuse to look down on the indie writer and indie publishing. Why give them a gold-plated reason by putting out a book that’s filled with bad grammar, random tense changes, punctuation errors, etc.?

Sour grapes? Or an Opportunity to be Seized?

I’ve read more and more often about writers who, upon receiving a less-than-stellar review, have what I can only call a baby tantrum.

They either demand that the reviewer retract the review, change the review, reread the book because obviously he couldn’t have read the masterpiece she wrote if he gave it a 2-star rating, or whatever. Sometimes the offended writer will threaten the reviewer with retaliatory bad reviews if the reviewer is also a writer.

Please, people. Grow the heck up. And I’m not talking to the reviewers here. I’m a writer and a reviewer. I know the pain of sending out work and having those precious words smacked down because they didn’t appeal of the readers. I also have an editor who, bless her heart, does not know the meaning of the words “false praise.” When I write stuff that sucks, she tells me in words I have no difficulty in understanding. Do I love her? You bet your bottom dollar I do. Every writer needs an editor like that. (Disclaimer: I provide the same tough love for her when she writes.)

So you got a bad (by your lights) review. What are you supposed to do?

First, look at the context. Are most of the reviews you’ve gotten positive? (If all those positive reviews are from your mother and your Aunt Susie and your boyfriend, get out the saltshaker and discount the stars by at least a quarter. You know those people are going to give you the benefit of the doubt even when there is no doubt to give.) If you’ve gotten mostly positive reviews and then out of the blue someone gives you a bad one, suck it up, grit your teeth, and move on. Lashing out at the reviewer makes you look like a tantrum-throwing baby. This is not a good image for a writer.

Then look at the reviewer’s record. If she’s a tough reviewer who never gives a rave review, that might put your okay-but-not-stellar review into a different light. If she is normally a creampuff who praises everything she reads and she panned your book mercilessly, ignore it. Again, getting into an internet epithet-hurling spat won’t make either of you look like mature adults. And the internet never forgets. Even if you delete everything, someone somewhere will have a screencap. You know they will. Better to just take a deep breath and let it go.

If more than one reviewer makes the same point, make a note. If the review is mostly positive but the reviewer notices some bad word choices or misspellings, make a note. This is one way to improve your writing so the next set of reviews will all be better.

And, really, isn’t better writing always a good thing? Or is that just me?

Gigging for giggles

I have a new gig.

A new website, The View From My Kindle, carries interviews, articles, and book reviews. I will be doing some book reviews for that site in the future.

How cool is that? I’m quite thrilled by this opportunity.

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