Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recent reads

I should really start posting these as I finish them.

-Jim Butcher

This installment of the Dresden Files certainly is about Changes. Most of what you think you know about Harry changes, including what Harry is willing to do. It was well written and is in the same tongue in cheek style of all Dresden books, only much darker. That being said, I had to give it a four instead of a five because of the mixed feelings I have over what happens in the book, these "Changes".

Harry does a couple of things out of character in the book that I think unsettled some of the other reviewers who perhaps don't have children. If you did, you'd realize that push come to shove, they aren't out of line for a parent, though granted, Harry embraces his parenthood rather quickly.

There is a lot more here on the structure of the Red Court which is fascinating and the Fellowship of St. Giles. Harry calls in all his markers on this one and it is quite a mess that he will be left with. I can't say I like the changes that Butcher has made, many of the things we think of automatically when we think of Harry Dresden are gone and there is one "Luke, I am Your Father" moment that doesn't seem to be as impactful for anyone involved as it should have been.

Still, it is a solid book in the series and better than one or two of the previous ones that have really stretched the readers ability to suspend disbelief.

Steam and Sorcery-Cindy Spencer Pape

This was an engaging and fun story to read. I'm very glad I picked it up. While it may be "steam punk light" it is still a good solid story in the genre and blends the elements of science fiction, fantasy and romance together into a tightly plotted and entertaining read. The characters are well developed and likable. The children in particular were endearing and fascinating and made this a charming and heartwarming tale. I highly recommend this book and others by Cindy Spencer Pape. She has the ability to cross genres and still delight her readers.

Photographs and Phantoms-Cindy Spencer Pape

Pape's writing style is wonderful and enjoyable. The dialogue between her characters is authentic and sounds real. I do understand how some readers who hadn't read the first book in the series may have had trouble with the world building in this, it's because she did so much of it in the first book, Steam and Sorcery, which is an awesome book and if you haven't read it, I'd start with it.

The only reason I didn't give this five stars was because I was left wanting more. I wanted more growth and development between these characters. I want to know more about Lord Lake and Amy, I'd have loved a bit more of a peek at the characters from the previous book as well.

This comes from the fact that the characters were so well developed and likable. This author can be counted on for excellent quality books. I've read many of her books and all have well drawn characters readers can connect with.

13 Little Blue Envelopes-Maureen Johnson

Couldn't get past the first 50 pages this was so bad. The premise sounded interesting, a bit like P.S. I Love You except you find out the girl is seventeen. The whole set up is unbelievable. Her aunt, who her mother said was crazy and unreliable and couldn't be trusted to manage anything-the same aunt her mother repeatedly told her she was never to grow up to be like sends her an envelope with $1000 and tells her to go to New York they're going to have an adventure but she can't bring a cell phone, or anything other than what will fit in her backpack with her?

First of all, the author needs to do some fact checking. $1000 will not get the girl a passport and a ticket to London and fare to New York

Secondly, the mother described in this story is not going to give her seventeen year old daughter permission to chase around Europe on the whim of the unreliable and dead aunt with no way to contact her and no way of knowing if she has been stranded there because her sister's hair-brained scheme failed or wasn’t completely finished before she died.

Tailor Made Bride-Kate Witemeyer

First of all, this is a Christian Romance. I'm annoyed at the people who left one star reviews, all of them complaining about the Christian element. Do your homework people! You wouldn't walk into a dress store and buy something cause you liked the color. You'd check to see if it fit you. The story is published by Bethany House. Bethany House is an inspirational/Christian publisher.

That aside, the story itself does leave room for criticism. Pacing is painfully slow and there is very little happening in the story. Even the moments meant to inspire tension are sadly lacking. Look, we know the heroine isn't going to die two thirds of the way through the book. And the "bad guy", well, the author goes out of her way to make excuses for him and to try to paint him as young, misunderstood and confused. She even makes a silly attempt to redeem him at the end which doesn't work.

The characters are fairly uninspiring on the whole. The hero is a sanctimonious twit most of the book worried that a few bits of lace will make women go mad with temptation cause his mother ran out on his pa for a rich man who could buy her more things. Really? Dude needs to see his prairie shrink to get over his momma issues.

There is a message in this book that shouldn't be in a book period, but definitely not in a romance novel. The story carries a message that a woman needs to pretty herself up and loose those nagging 10 lbs. for a man to like her, or she'll end up with the sociopath down the street cause he's the only one who could like her. I get the heroine is fitness obsessed, and yes we are talking about a historical novel here. She spends half the book exercising. But to have her take the hero's sister who is described as a bit plump and make her do these exercises and starve herself to lose weight so the guy she likes will like her back is ridiculous and a bad message. Of course there is a lot of lip service to the "oh, he like her just as she was," nonsense, but the kicker here is the hero's sister doesn't get the guy until the heroine puts her through prairie boot-camp.

Heaven is For Real-Todd Burpo

As the mother of a toddler who will soon be having surgery, I found the images of Jesus holding little Colton on his lap and talking gently to him as the doctors worked to save his life to be wonderfully reassuring. And his meeting and being comforted by relatives that had passed on felt very right. The story is well written and is a lovely little story

However, while I find it fully believable that this extraordinary child had a near death experience that is inspiring, I found the latter portions of this story that developed or were "revealed" several years after the experience to be less authentic sounding and believable. The story stopped sounding authentic and more like a little boy reciting back or giving the grown-ups answers they wanted based on what he’s been taught.

Still, it was an enjoyable read.

Hybrid- Bryan O’Grady

The story concept is quite good as is most of the execution. This is very much hard science fiction and there are times when the writer's need to prove he understands the very technical aspects, or to at least get in all the science he's researched is cumbersome and simply bores the reader. You want good science supporting the science fiction, but whole sections are unreadable. Characterization is excellent as is plotting and pacing.

However the editor for this book needs to rethink their career choice. There are grammatical mistakes so jarring they pull the reader out of the story. Wrong word forms are used such as one location where it states "[It will] ultimate lead to our extinction." In other places to is used for too, there for their and other errors you might expect in a middle school essay, but not a published novel. I actually expect a few formatting errors with Kindle, but the punctuation and formatting in this book were horrific.

Overall, story good-book bad.

Journey to the Well-Diana Wallis Taylor

I'd actually have liked to give this a 4.5 stars. The story is wonderful. John 4 tells of the story of a Samaritan woman that Jesus meets at the Well of Jacob. Jesus reveals that the woman has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. Most jump to the conclusion that the woman is immoral and that she has been divorced or set aside by her husbands for bad behavior or barrenness. This author presents a story that paints the lead character as more of an unlucky or unfortunate woman, a victim of the realities of life as a woman in this time period, who has nearly lived the life of Job. The characters are well developed and the story imagined for this woman is warm and her meeting with Jesus could easily bring you tears when seen through her eyes.

My only consideration is that the writer's vocabulary seems very limited and her writing is a bit amateurish. In one section of the book (each section named for the man in her life at that time) someone's expression or face is described as "unreadable" at least twice per page. There are other ways to describe this. Many words, expressions, and descriptions are repeated to the point it becomes painfully obvious.

I'm interested to read other books by this author. I'd like to see her writing develop and she definitiely has a talent for telling an engaging and endearing story.

Hiss of Death-Rita Mae Brown

Remember when this was a great series? Not so much any more. This used to be my favorite series. It used to have exciting plots and wonderful, charming characters. Not so much any more. Now the plots are thin and boring. Now the characters are trite and flat.

The last two books have killed this series for me. Brown no longer seems to care about her stories or her readers. She spends most of her time, every third page or so, boring us and pulling the reader out of the story by beating us over the head with her political agenda. I don't buy these books to read pages of diatribes about how evil the government is, Rep. or Dem. You're a Libertarian-All govt. bad. We get it already.

Harry has become boring, preachy and I expect her next adventure will be in a survivalist training camp learning to spot black helicopters. Maybe she needs to be single again cause since she remarried Fair she's become totally unlikable.

Oh, and the ending/motive of this was ridiculous. Brown pulled the wrap-up for this out of of thin air.

Guardian Bride-Lauri Robinson

This is the fourth installment in the Quinter Brides series and it is quite enjoyable. The series is a sweet romance line about five brothers and their shot gun toting Ma who tends to marry them off, not always with their consent. Luckily it all works out in the end. This series is satisfying if a bit predictable. If you're looking for realism, keep looking.

This is the story of Scott "Snake" Quinter and the bride he wins in a poker game...sort of. Summer Austin's father throws her into the kitty at a poker game. Appalled but holding the winning hand, Snake folds thinking this will solve the problem. However, another man claims the win and the girl, a man who has a reputation for selling young girls to the highest bidder south of the Mexican-American border. To save Summer and her younger sister, Snake holds up his end of the bargain and claims the win not knowing the slaver has no intention of giving up his prize.

This is a collection of silly, sometimes kitschy characters who are charming and delightful. The plot is not unpredictable, but in a homey, comfortable way that makes for good brain candy reading.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quality Matters

When you are a new or little known/unknown author one of the most important things is that the work you put out there for your readers is top quality. When you are trying to introduce people to yourself and your work, you have to make sure that what you put out there is the best that you can make it. This goes for every writer, whether you are publishing with a large publishing house, a small independent publishing house or are self publishing. Putting out shoddy work, will not endear you to readers.
I’ve been reading a lot of small house and self published books of late and have been disappointed at the quality. Not necessarily with the quality of the stories, some have been quite well plotted and well written stories that I’ve enjoyed. The problem I’ve noticed repeatedly has been with the quality of the editing and formatting of the books. Now this says either something about the Amazon Kindle formatting, or about the lack of editing being done on the books.
Formatting errors are excusable as long as they don’t proliferate the text and make it difficult to read. However poor editing isn’t the same thing as formatting. When it is grammatical mistakes and incorrect spelling or word choice, that is another thing altogether. For example, “It will ultimate lead to our extinction,” is not a formatting error but poor editing and grammar. Then there is the use of “to” when “too” is meant, or “there” when “their” is meant. These are mistakes I correct in the papers of middle school students and should not be appearing in published works of literature.
If you want to be a writer and be taken seriously, you have to behave professionally and put forth professional quality work. Beta readers and professional editors are not dispensable. Your readers deserve it.