Friday, December 22, 2006

Please welcome Chris Gerrib!

Lulu author Chris Gerrib is joining POD People as a reviewer. Chris's first novel, a science fiction story called "The Mars Run," is set in 2071. His protagonist, Janet Pilgrim, a recent high school graduate, suddenly finds herself unable to afford college, thanks to her father's financial mismanagement. Faced with the fear of dying of embarrassment if she goes to a junior college, she looks for a way out. After considering joining the Army, she stumbles on the solution to her problems - becoming an astronaut on a commercial space ship.

Chris's work has been favorably reviewed by a number of people, including:

Jeff Duntemann - SF author and publisher Jeff Duntemann likes The Mars Run. Jeff says, "[Chris] has an intuitive grasp of the criminal mind" and that he would have "gladly read it at twice the length."

Ron Miller (Hugo-nominated artist & writer) "It reads very much like a three-way cross between early Heinlein, Joe Haldeman and Allen Steele," and [the heroine] is tough, resourceful, likeable and altogether realistic and who she is and what she becomes is really what the book is all about."

Julie Ann Dawson, writer, publisher and general Renaissance woman, likes The Mars Run. She said, "Presents an interesting twist on the standard space travel fare." She likes the subtle presentation of future technology, and says, "Overall, The Mars Run will appeal to readers looking for a sense of action and adventure in their fiction choices."

These and other reviews can be seen at Chris's web site, Chris is fond of science fiction, history and mysteries, and also blogs at

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Occult Crimes Investigation Unit #1: Sorcery Squad' by Jamie Gregory

TITLE: Occult Crimes Investigation Unit #1: Sorcery Squad
AUTHOR: Jamie Gregory
PRICE: $10.29 (ebook $3)
GENRE: Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1-4116-9825-3

Jamie Gregory is definitely a master of character and setting. His near future Britain artfully blends real occult traditions with inner city police drama. From the opening pages this novel promises to be the perfect blend of mystery and urban fantasy with every character a fully rounded, flawed human being, and every detail rich and authentic. The Occult Crimes Investigation Unit or ‘Sorcery Squad’ is a new policing initiative led by DCI Amanda Oliver—a voudon practitioner holding together a team of detectives with their own occult talents, including the undisciplined DS Abe Rosen who is still struggling with the aftereffects of his rebellious youth.

When two incinerated bodies are found in a magical circle the sorcery squad swings into action. However, because I was expecting a mystery to unfold I found the writing style to be supremely exasperating. A great many scenes would open with just a few sentences before launching into five to ten pages of a detailed retrospective account of some peripheral topic such as why a certain location was ideal for summoning a demon or how two characters first met. These vignettes whilst interesting after a fashion were digressions that never proved relevant to the main plotline. Added to that, the mystery is finally solved through coincidence and outside manipulation—the detectives themselves proving almost credulous in their beliefs and just happening to stumble over vital clues and confessions.

A subplot involving demons making an offer that exploits Abe’s deepest weakness enlivens the closing stages of the story but neither the crime itself nor the personal subplots are well resolved. I was left with the impression that Jamie Gregory has the potential to be an astounding breakthrough author of gritty urban fantasy truly in a league of his own—but only if he manages to place as much emphasis on plot as he does on lovingly portraying the motivations of his complex and engaging characters.

If you are a devotee of unique fantasy with a gritty, urban edge and a multi-cultural ensemble cast I do encourage you to give this book a try. If you have a sneaking addiction to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle this may not be the book for you.

RATING: 6.5/10

8.3/10: Lulu


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

[GUEST BLOG] Why I Like -- And Hate -- Shopping At iUniverse

Today we have a guest blog by Devon Kappa that originally appeared in the November 29th issue of the new POD Blog None May Say.

iUniverse POD books are particularly well-represented on my bookshelf. It’s not that iUniverse authors are uniquely talented. Every POD publisher has a few great books, and a whole lot of dross. It's certainly not that iUniverse produces an especially beautiful physical product. iUniverse's cover art is as unforntunate as any POD publisher's.

Rather, I like iUniverse because it allows me to read several pages of the books I'm interested in before I purchase them. Other POD websites offer less extensive preview functionality. For example, Lulu (which I also really like, and which will be the subject of a future post) recently began providing pages from most (but not all) of its newer offerings. AuthorHouse sometimes provides a few random paragraphs. But iUniverse lets you check out the first several pages of all of its books.

This obviously does not advantage every iUniverse author. I've often passed on a book that initially looked intriguing after I've read the first few pages (or sentences). However, the fact that iUniverse gives me the opportunity to make this assessment is what makes me willing to buy its books at all. If I bought every POD book that caught my eye without further investigation, I'd be broke (and my house would be filled with awful fiction).

However, as much as I appreciate iUniverse's preview policy, its absurd e-book policy drives me crazy. Because POD paperbacks are expensive, I only buy a novel if I am very confident that I will enjoy it. However, I would be happy to take chances on more novels, ones that I am not quite as certain about, if I could purchase them in the cheaper e-book format.

In this regard, ordinary pdf e-books are convenient: they can be printed, read by a variety of software on a variety of systems, and freely transferred between all of my computers and handheld devices. Indeed, several POD publishers (like Lulu) distribute their e-books in basic pdf format.

Unfortunately, all of iUniverse's e-books are sold in Adobe Ebook format. Adobe Ebooks cannot be printed, which is a huge inconvenience for me. Moreover, Adobe EBooks can only be read using Adobe's own proprietary Reader software. The Adobe Reader must be installed and registered on every computer or device on which you want to read your Ebooks. If Adobe doesn't make a reader for your device, you're out of luck. If you buy an Adobe Ebook but then change your system someday so that the Adobe Reader no longer works or is not available, your investment is gone. You can never read your EBook again.

This is unacceptable. Why shouldn't I be able to print my e-books to read in the bathtub? Why shouldn't I be able to read my e-books on any program I want, and on any computer I want, without registering my every move with Adobe? Why should I have to worry about someday losing access to my EBooks altogether? Is iUniverse really that afraid of POD e-book piracy? I'm as big a POD novel booster as there is, and I truly believe that some POD novels are as good as any contemporary popular fiction. But let's be honest: the demand for these books in the black-market underground just isn't that great. All that iUniverse has succeeded in doing is alienating me and reducing its own sales.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Open to Submissions in category: Gay & Lesbian

POD People is open to submissions in the category of 'Gay & Lesbian' only. This category will remain open until 5 submissions are received. We are also interested in hearing from people willing to review in this category on an ongoing or guest basis.

1/5: 'Pop-Up Book of Death' by Chad Helder

Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance' by Ann Herendeen

TITLE: Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance
AUTHOR: Ann Herendeen
PRICE: $14.50
GENRE: Gay & Lesbian/historical
ISBN: 1420869639
PUBLISHER: Authorhouse
POINT OF SALE: Authorhouse

'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander" both is, and is not, your mother's Regency romance. It is a love story with a plucky heroine and a dark, brooding aristocratic hero, there are some balls (yes, I mean dances) in pretty frocks, there is a marriage of convenience, a string of misunderstandings (531 pages worth!) and a happy ending. There are also the husband's new and former male lovers, a rent boy and his girlfriend, a club for wealthy sodomites, intrusive and eccentric relatives, friends and associates, French and British spies and quite possibly (somewhere in the mix) both a kitchen sink and a partridge and a pear tree. One gets the feeling that in limiting herself to these mere 500-odd pages Ann Herendeen was in fact showing a significant degree of restraint. Perhaps this story would really like to be one of those three novel sets a lady novelist of the era would have produced!

The plot rumbles off to a fairly standard beginning with an impoverished Phyllida being offered marriage by Andrew Carrington--although a quirky twist is apparent because Andrew makes his sexuality known from the beginning and Phyllida is revealed as an shockingly open-minded authoress of high gothic romances. On cue the two find themselves victims of hit-and-miss sexual chemistry (the latter being not all that surprising given a mutual lack of experience with heterosexual coupling). Things escalate from there, thanks to the interference and advice of many parties and Andrew’s secret sideline in espionage. In trying to protect each other the happy couple manage to… well, you really have to read the book to see what a truly tangled web they weave and just how many people get caught up in it.

By the end there is dire peril all around, emotions reach a fever pitch, people are hidden away in various rooms and basements, guns are going off, secret codes are passed around along with a strong of interlocking personal secrets and misunderstandings, and although no balls are in frocks Phyllida is trying to squeeze her ample charms into the disguise of male garb (with a distinct lack of success). 'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander' is a book that is easy to like, easy to read, and a fun way to spend a day--preferably lounging on a chaise lounge and exclaiming in mock horror at every salacious detail. For a fan of regency romance and gay themes in fiction ‘Phyllida’ truly is a confection almost to good to be true!

RATING: 8/10

Amazon 10/10


Monday, October 16, 2006

'The Senator' by Lou Dischler

TITLE: The Senator
AUTHOR: Lou Dischler
PRICE: $14.99
GENRE: Thriller
ISBN: 141962007X

I just finished three thrillers in a row. The first two were The Broker by Grisham and The Camel Club by Baldacci. The third one was The Senator by Lou Dischler.

I have no qualms putting this right next to the Grisham and Baldacci novels. The Senator is fast paced, populated with three dimensional characters, and the settings and atmosphere surrounding the events in those settings, were realistic. In places, as a matter of fact, it seemed much more real than the Grisham, with which I had some ‘suspension of disbelief’ struggles.

The main character is a “lesser known” (and completely fictional) Kennedy who has run for office and failed, as well as failed in an attempt at a career in journalism. At the time of the story’s opening, Paul Kennedy (who doesn’t appear until chapter 2, actually) is dreaming about buying a 30 foot boat and running a tourist fishing operation. He’s dating the daughter of the powerful Senator from South Carolina, Wade Thornton, a situation which the staunchly Republican Senator thoroughly disapproves. Paul would marry Helen Thornton, but she is reluctant because of the enmity between Paul and her father.

The arrival of a package from Argentina at Paul’s address, but intended for someone else, is the beginning of a chain of events in Paul and Helen’s life that eventually leads them to uncover a conspiracy that includes people in top government positions both in the US and other countries, who are pushing relentlessly towards a goal that would destroy the US economy, setting up the right circumstances for their Society to step in and take charge of a world that will be left in chaos.

There are a number of essential subplots and secondary characters, all are well crafted and integral to the story. The subplots weave in and out of the main plot, supporting and enhancing the story. And while there is a secret global conspiracy, it isn’t one totally constituted of dark and exaggeratedly evil madmen. One can actually empathize with them at some level. To me, this is key to a good thriller. If the white-hats are too white and the black-hats too black it’s just melodrama.

Because much of a thriller’s enjoyment for a reader hinges upon the elements of surprise, it would be unfair to go deeper into the story. I will say that there are times when I think some of the economic rhetoric could have been pruned. I also think the portrayal of the Secretary of Defense was a bit over the top. But I think back to the characters in the Grisham and the Baldacci books mentioned above and they had similar flaws. I found a few errors a bit more copy-editing might have caught, but frankly I’m finding those in best-sellers these days, too. No harm done to my reading pleasure. And it was a pleasure to read.

RATING: 8/10

Amazon 10/10


Reviewed by Dawno

Saturday, September 02, 2006

New POD review site

The POD People wish to welcome another blog concerned with print on demand/self-published books. Check out the PODlings!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

'White Lightning Road' by Harry Gilleland

TITLE: White Lightning Road
AUTHOR: Harry Gilleland
PRICE: $11.95 (ebook 3.57)
GENRE: Romance
ISBN: 978-1-4116-8693-9

Harry Gilleland demonstrates some mastery of plot in telling the story of two heroines finding the love and lifestyle they deserve. First Jennifer returns to the her family home after her parents' deaths and bumps into her neighbor--a man whom rumors say killed the drunk-driver who destroyed his family. Also back in town is Sally divorced and starting over with her young son. Jennifer has to decide whether she can trust her mysterious neighbor--Sally struggles to make it on her own in a new city where her boss starts to make unwelcome suggestions. Both women end up with a very satisfying love-mate and home.

Although the plot is centered upon romance the execution isn't really in that genre. The entire book is in present tense and we never really get deeply into the point of view of either heroine. At times characters behave in jarring ways. Jennifer's moods and attitudes seem erratic and her response to some situations a little credulous. Her love interest, Michael, states that Jennifer has "replaced" the place of his late wife in his heart which could be phrased far more sensitively. Sally's story takes up only the last third of the book and the hero of the piece is so lightly described that their pairing off seems to be mainly a matter of tying up loose ends--especially after a more lovingly depicted man is dropped from the story allowing a 'villain' character to get her way.

'White Lightning Road' sketches out a romance story with great potential but fails to really capitalize upon it.

RATING: 5/10

10/10: Lulu

9/10: Amazon

10/10: Bookreporter

6.3/10: Mrs Giggles


REVIEWED BY: Emily Veinglory

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Your Websites--the first batch

Here are the first of our website visits covering the first seven sites submitted. The comments are from me, and our guest web-design expert Liz. Thanks to all who volunteered--our comments are, of course, just our subjective opinions. I hope you will all take the time to look around these sites and see what some of our visitors are up to. I will keep doing these visits so long as people keep sending links. The top pick from each group will get a link from out POD People website. From this batch this will be the tied first place getters Hannah R Goodman and J M Snyder. (Links not posted yet—it will be in the next update).

It took me a little while to find the fiction page because the top navigation bar is in a tiny font but from there the books are well described with clear links to the point of sale. The informal tone and simple design make for a nice web experience. Bonus points for quoting our POD People review of ‘Another Worldly Device’. The background images are just a little distracting but the regularly updated content of the blog-style front page suggest that this is a site you could visit again and again.

Liz (#3)
Cons - the site is fixed-width (generally a negative to me), sits at the left rather than centering itself (which looks better if you're going with fixed-width) but the "you are not clones" banner is not fixed with the rest of the page, which just looks weird. I find the insects in the background make it hard to read the text. If you like the bug, make him a logo somewhere...

Pros: Content is well organized with the blog entries down the left and new reviews down the right. Navigation is clear if boring.

Consistent across browsers (though it doesn't work in older (4.x) browser versions, not that it's such a big deal).

Em (#2)
A smooth professional look from the first moment make this a standout website. There is also cover art and link to a point of sale in the top section of the page to maximize sales. A lot of high quality infromation is available giving a real feeling that you are learning more about the author. Attractive graphics and cover art combined with clear navigation make this a real stand out site.

Liz (#1)
Cons - the front page is a bit busy with the finer points of visual formatting inconsistent (or at least unclear: e.g. there are 2 items in yellow boxes with dotted borders - one a link to her blog, another for a download; then there's the unique box around the email list signup - it's not clear what warrants the yellow box or what gets its own unique style). The radio button in the google search for www (vs. her site only) is on a separate line from the www label - that should be easy enough to fix. And the navigation is inconsistent (click on books and sub-options appear for each book, as well as blurbs for each in the main content area; but click on short stories and they only appear in the main content area; etc.). The right side is mostly books and how to buy, but there's a "testimonial" quote at the end, on the left after the menu we get a pic with a factoid and some more quotes plus that PDF link.

Minor details all, but makes it a little "cluttered". Could easily be fixed by grouping, labeling and formatting content of similar categories and consistent functional behavior in the menus. Again, don't like the fixed width, but centering it makes it visually more appealing.

Pros: Other than the above, it's well organized, and regardless of the above, navigation is easy and its visually appealing.
Good use of color and mixing graphic and text content (though I could do without the webring pink at the bottom of the home page).

The header graphic/logo is nice. IMO, this is the best and most professional-looking of the sites. I see that it's hosted/designed by company which does this kind of thing commercially, which probably makes a difference. Good cross-browser support; better old-browser support than the last one (content is all over the place, but at least you can get to it).

The site is plain but the books are shown up front. I very quickly got a feeling for what the books on sale were about and for the writer’s enthusiasm for these subjects. Point of sale links could be a little more prominent but were easy to find. A functional site.

Yikes! Cons: nearly everything. Screams amateur and late 80s. We could do without that pic in the background, which makes the text hard to read. Every font color and size possible was used and doesn't help. Every page is completely different - you'd never know they were all at the same site. Navigation is easy, but the first page doesn't make me want to go further. Pros: Looks the same in all browsers, even the old ones.

The site give some feel for the author with clear covers and links to point of sale—but no information about the prose fiction and little about the poetry. This is a start but I think the site needs more content.

Cons: Suffers many of the same problems as the previous, though not as bad. The background is distracting but not to the point of not being able to read the text. The look is inconsistent (like a scrapbook rather than an organized presentation).
Pros: as before, works in any browser.

Em: (#3)
I like the look of the site except for the intrusive google ads. There are stories and all sorts of interesting information but there really needs to be something to smooth the way for the new reader—like an overall summary and index to help them get their bearings. The purple font on aqua background is a bit hard on the eyes when it comes to reading full stories.

Cons: Google ads right at the top! At least move them below a header of sorts so we know it's your site, not google's. It's blah, purple text on a pale blue background just doesn't do it for me.

Pros: Shows in all browsers; actually looks better in the 4.x generation where the google ads don't show up and it's basically white background and black text with graphics.

Em: (#1)
An excellent design. A nice blend of professionalism and informality with clear links to books and stories. Very impressive and full of information with intuitive navigation and no clutter.

Liz: (#2)
Cons: Lacking somewhat in eye candy (color, graphics, logo). But that may be the look they were going for...

Pros: Clean, simple. You won't get lost. Not pretty in older browsers, but shows up in all of them. Very well organized. Visual effects (such as underlining links on mouse over) are nice. Consistent look across the whole site.

This would be my second favorite, and it's very close - I like the consistency, organization and cleanness of this site much better than the one above, but I like the other's visual appeal better.

Easy to get around easy to buy the book. I would suggest making the front page more about the book and less about the author but otherwise this is a friendly website and easy to understand and navigate.

Cons: In those browsers not configured to override the site's font, it's bold, italic and serif! Nearly impossible to read! Looks very amateur. Suffers from minor inconsistent details between pages.

Pros: Shows in all browsers, even old. Navigation is easy, if not totally consistent. Look is mostly consistent.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Which is the Best Self-Publishing Company?

Well our previous polls seem to have developed a glitch and vanished... sigh. But never mind. I have found a new poll host and we are ready to go again.

Which is the Best Self-Publishing Company?

The poll is in the right hand column. If you do not see the company that you wish to vote for just post a comment here and I will add it!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

REVIEW: 'Questions' by Mihad Ali

TITLE: Questions
AUTHOR: Mihad Ali
PRICE: $32.90
GENRE: Poetry
ISBN: 1-4116-7551-7

This collection of poetry is intense, sincere and personal. The theme of 'questions' will echo the experiences of many people trying to find their way, and their place, in the world.

The poetry itself was not written, formatted or edited in a way that gave me a great deal of pleasure. Uniformly centred and in italics, and rife with awkward rhymes, errors in spelling, inconsistent punctuation and sprinklings of txt langauge. Phrases such as "Will I get 2 c tomorrow?" "It is the outspoken, who is the most troubled" and "Their only just starting to grow" jarred me one almost every page as did intrusive annotations such as "…..Continued from previous page" and "* This poem has been edited from it’s original state."

However I must accept the poet's own perspective, as stated near the end of the volume. "You don't have to accept what I am saying / all you have to do is acknowledge / that there is another opinion in the mix.... Appearances don’t mean a thing ... Not everything has to match ..."

This is a raw record of one person's ongoing journey to being at peace with themselves--full of unapologetic affirmation of self--and a few searching questions. The dispassionate poetry officianado, however, would do well to avoid 'Questions'.


10/10: Lulu

AVERAGE: 5.5/10


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Self-Published Authors Show Us Your Websites!

Do you have a self-published book? Do you have a website to promote it? If so, we want to hear from you!

Post a link to your webb-page in a reply to this post. Sites that we like will be featured on the POD People blog and the best will also be added to our website! Watch this space for links to great POD book websites and discussions about how to improve your site!

EDITED TO ADD: If you reply but do not see your post listed you do not need to send it again. Due to SPAM posts I have had to moderate replies and I will approve your replies as soon as I see them! Apologies for the delays this produces.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Blogvine

OUR GUEST BLOG -- Self Publishing / Morris Rosenthal

DESCRIPTION -- "Print on Demand and ebook publishing have created a whole new model for self publishing. Are POD and digital books the answer to our prayers, or just an evolutionary step between traditional self publishing models and free Internet distribution?"

PICK OF THE POSTS -- POD versus Print on Demand Publishing

"I used to get all worked up when I saw POD being used as a generic term for books from companies like iUniverse, Lulu, PublishAmerica, xLibris and AuthorHouse, but I've concluded that it's silly to fight against the tide of language usage. I imagine there are some lawyers at Google who are bothered that using their Google as a verb will result in trademark dilution, so compared to them, I have nothing to lose by going with the flow. Too bad I was born a salmon."

THE QUESTION -- Has POD People commited a semantic sin? Does anyone care? Yes, Print on Demand is a technology used as much by publishers as private individuals, but SeP People just doesn't have the same ring to it....

'Kingdom of the Hollow' by Phillip E. Hardy

TITLE: Kingdom of the Hollow: the Story of the Hatfields and McCoys
AUTHOR: Phillip E. Hardy
PRICE: $16.56 (ebook: $6.94)
GENRE: Historical
ISBN: 978-1-4116-8127-9

The Hatfields and McCoys are now referred to quite casually as symbols of feuding neighbors. 'Kingdom of the Hollow' provides an informative narrative about the real people behind this cliche. The facts of the matter are laid out from the first accuastions of pig stealing, through bungled wooing and hot headed shootings and a final court case. In every detail the feud clearly deserves its status as a symbol of the tragedy of small disputes leading to calamity--in this case dozens of deaths.

This neglected episode in American history is clearly delinieated and placed in the context of nineteenth cenmtury Kentucky in the wake of the Civil War. I was left feeling better educated but with a lingering uncertainty about which aspects were historical and which were fictionalised.

This book does a great service in laying down the facts in a simple and readable manner. Minor but persistent proofreading errors were apparent but a greater difficulty is the dispassionate third person approach which prevents one for really being placed in the characters' shoes. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the Hatfield and McCoy feud in a relatively effortless manner--rather than someone seeking an entertaining novel.


9.2/10 Lulu


Reviewed by Emily Veinglory

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Caeli's Daniachew by Crystal Ordonez

Reviewed by emeraldcite

TITLE – Caeli’s Daniachew
AUTHOR – Crystal Ordonez
PRICE - $10.00 ($5.00 download)
GENRE - Romance/Sci-fi
ISBN – 978-1-4116-9425-5

Caeli’s Daniachew
Crystal Ordonez

Caeli’s Daniachew can best be described as a slipstream romance, a novella that bends genre and delivers an interesting story about the interplay between two cultures, those on the Caeli surface, and those of the invaders.

Kaya finds herself as the slave to the dashing Adwin Barry, the Daniachew, or peacekeeper, between the conquerors and the conquered. Adwin is a paragon of politeness and romance. Kaya, who has remained a virgin despite living in an internment camp prior to moving in with her master, is smitten with Adwin, but is pensive around him knowing that he could take her at any time. The romantic tension between them grows as their friendship flourishes. They do not hide their affections for each other as they progress from flirtation to a full-blown relationship.

Kaya follows Adwin around the planet as he negotiates peace between his people, the Swandidi, and Kaya’s people on Caeli. She witnesses the difficulties of maintain a working relationship with her people and his. She faces a number of dangerous situations that could, at any moment, destroy their relationship. Despite these challenges, she does not give up, and neither does he.

Ordonez plays with interesting themes throughout the novella. She broaches the subjects of inter-racial relationships, the clash between cultures and ethnicities, and, in a way, master/slave relationships. It was a good read, quick and enjoyable. Although I never really felt that Kaya was really in much danger, even when her life or virginity seemed threatened, I couldn’t help but like the characters and hope the best for them.

Although rated for Teen on the website, the sexual contact between the characters is quite graphic.

RATING: 7/10

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

'Erosion' by Lon S. Cohen

TITLE – Erosion
AUTHOR – Lon S. Cohen
PRICE - $19.91 ($7.84 download)
GENRE - Thriller
ISBN – 978-1-4116-8492-8

Canyon Park is bowed down under a relentless torrent of rain. The fields are flooded, the bridges crumble and the increasingly isolated town is host to a serial killer with a grudge against the wealthy Lollo family. The chapters move the plot along inexorably -- slipping between a small cast of characters; the killer, the tortured policeman hiding a dark secret, the returning son, the inquisitive librarian, the boy caught between cultures.... each of these marred, struggling humans a part of the threadbare fabric of the town. And throughout the story, secrets and motivations are slowly revealed, people continue to die, and it continues to rain.

The ensemble of characters seem to be facets of the real protagonist of the story -- the town itself, as we gradual learn of its history. The Lollo's callous domination of its culture and industry, their corruption even of the souls of the people. The Lollo's started the Indian Boarding Schools that seized and indoctrinated the children of the indigenous Oneidas clan. Bradley Lollo exploited the children in these schools and dominated the town in other ways, ruthlessly pressuring the police and putting a young officer on the road to his current life of guilt and quiet desperation. The Lollo's exploitation haunts the town in the form of casual bigotry, resentment and building anger that seems to find its outlet in the killer, and in the rain.

Bradley Lollo's grandson, Marc, returns to Canyon Park, through an unprecedented downpour, to learn that his Aunt' recent death was no accident. Gradually the killer's identity is revealed -- along with a great many other things. Many of the characters in 'Erosion' spring out of archetypes that could easily have strayed into cliché. Yet Lon S Cohen deftly breathes life into the prodigal son, the alcoholic cop, the pretty librarian in desperate need of her prince charming, and most especially into the killer--a man navigating a maze of delusions that become frighteningly plausible, heroic even, as we grow to understand where they have sprung from. From the dark heart and history of Canyon Park, slowly exposed to us, by a process of erosion.

RATING: 7.5/10

10/10 Lulu


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Changes at Gloomwing

The Gloomwing site is one of the few other review sites specifically for self-published books. It seems change is in the air over there:

"Change is unavoidable and so it is that Gloomwing will begin a transformation into a ezine or a print magazine, maybe both. As a result we will now accept only hardcopy submissions of books for review. For more details please visit the submissions page. The new magazine is still being defined but will be tailored to the self-publisher as well as the reader."

Monday, May 29, 2006


Those of you listing with amazon may appreciate a new online service called 'Titlez' that will track the google ranks of your books. They also have a very useful news page with a stream devoted to self-publishing news.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

‘The Hell You Say’ by Josh Lanyon

Reviewed by Lamia

TITLE – The Hell You Say
AUTHOR – Josh Lanyon
PRICE - $15.95 (ebook $6.00)
GENRE - Mystery
ISBN – 0-595-38512-5
PUBLISHER - iuniverse
POINT OF SALE - iuniverse

This is the third of the Adrien English books, but the first I’ve read. He’s a mild-mannered bookseller and mystery writer in Los Angeles – and one of those people to whom things just happen. Here, he’s drawn into an investigation of a series of murders linked to the occult, when his assistant, the wimpy Angus, is so scared by a series of satanic threats delivered over the telephone that he leaves town.

English’s interest soon draws the attention of the people who’ve been menacing Angus, but the discovery of a demonic symbol on his front doorstep, executed in red paint, just makes him more determined to find out what’s going on.

Lanyon creates a rich cast of characters, from English’s overbearing mother, Lisa, her prospective husband and his three daughters, to the suave Professor Snowden, for whom Angus has been working as a teaching assistant. There’s a charismatic author of horror novels and his manager, aggressive Goth girl students, an elusive Harry Potter look-alike and the disparate members of English’s Partners In Crime writers’ circle. And as he struggles to cope with keeping his business going, pursuing the investigation, and battling a continuing emotional crisis, there’s a procession of weird characters he takes on to help him in the bookshop.

But central to the whole novel is his fraught relationship with his lover, a police detective, Jake, whom he describes as ‘deeply closeted.’ As he says. ’Jake despised himself for being sexually attracted to men.’ Jake is also seeing a female cop, and the subtext to the story is his state of denial, laced with his undoubted affection for Adrien. Jake emerges as a pretty unsympathetic character, but nevertheless, this is a love story as well as a mystery, and at the end, although Adrien faces up to a future without him, nobody will be taking bets on Jake not appearing in any future Adrien English books.

And if there are any more, I for one will be in line to read them. Lanyon’s style is easy and readable. He’s actually very funny, and there’s a lightness of touch which makes this a real page-turner. He has the facility to move swiftly from scene to scene, which makes it a little episodic and choppy, but suits the style and the subject matter.

If I have any criticism, it’s that the humour can sometimes teeter on the edge of being facetious. And Adrien English is so buttoned down that there were times I was screaming in frustration on his behalf. One tiny gripe; I winced at the misuse of the word inferred – but this in self-published novel which is otherwise exemplary in its use of spelling and grammar, so really I’m just being picky here.

‘The Hell You Say’ is a well-written and sharply plotted novel, but more, it’s the closely observed characterisation, the attention to the people with the walk-on parts, the small details, which make this a pleasure to read.

RATING: 7/10

10/10 Amazon
8/10 Booksnbytes


Barbara Bauer's Bark

Those of you who appreciated the currently unavailable writer's site Absolute Write may be interested to know that the so-called agent Barbara Bauer was behind having the web host drop it because she is listed there (and elsewhere) on the list of '20 Worst Agents'. I leave you to draw your own conclusions but you might like to read Miss Snark's thoughts on the matter.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Closed to Submissions

In order to get through our reviews in a timely manner we are closed to both submissions and queries at this time. We will be following up on any queries or submissions that have already been sent, but ask authors to please hold off on sending any new queries. If you are exceedingly keen you may send a simple email asking to be notified when submissions re-open--this should be no more than a blank email to PODPEEP @ GMAIL.COM containing the words 'please notify' on the subject line.

'Seasons Black and Red: Poems for Manic Depressives' by Phineas Narco

TITLE – Seasons Black and Red: Poems for Manic Depressives
AUTHOR – Phineas Narco
PRICE - $4.00 (ebook) $12.00 (print)
GENRE - Poetry

The focus of my interest in poetry has always been the ideas, glimpses of the world from a unique point of view. The better poems in this collection (there are over sixty) give that moment of vivid recognition of a new idea, an idea passed to you from the poet as a gift--a thought you would never have on your own. There are virtuoso moments such as the description of a convenience store hot dog in 'My Daily Bread'. The use of poetic devices like rhyme, assonance and repetition tend to have more amateurish results and the poet is at his best in free form pieces like Hell: "Hell is being in a Laundromat on the lower east side..." wind up to a trademark pithy last line.

I would not call 'Seasons Black and Red' the mature work of a fully realized poet, but it is a fascinating looking into a poet's notebook showing that he has an eye for the telling details of real life and a willingness to experiment, with variable success. At least half of the poems have at their heart a thought of image well worth contemplation. 'Seasons' is definitely a worthwhile read especially for those looking for a voice that opens up a window on living with the shifts in mood and vitality that distinguish bipolar disorder--or poetry that comments on the seedier side of everyday life from an excruciatingly self-aware perspective.

RATING: 6.5/10

10/10 Lulu


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Introducing Our New Review Coordinator, Dawno

Dawno will be managing the intake and assignment of books for review. Dawno has been an avid reader since she was three years old. One of her best loved books as a child was Robert Silverberg’s Lost Race of Mars which began a life-long addiction to all things Science Fiction. Over the years she has acquired a taste for a number of genres, including Military History and Military Fiction, Alternative History, Mysteries and Thrillers, to name a few.

Dawno looks forward to working with the authors and reviewers here. She can be reached through the same email address used for submissions. Welcome, Dawno!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Other Sites that Review Self-Published Books

Bards and Sages provides a very thorough summary of the sites that provide book reviews for self-published authors. Kudos to them for developing this useful resource which includes many different review sites along with an accurate summary of what they offer.

Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Open to entries until May 1st. I would like to hear from anyone who decided to enter, or has entered in the past. Or even if you looked it over and choose not to enter? Is the chance to win worth the $100 entry fee? What is more appealling, the cash prizes or the potential publicity?

Monday, April 17, 2006

'Bob the Dragon Slayer' by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.

Reviewed by Tim Case

TITLE - Bob the Dragon Slayer,
AUTHOR - Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
PRICE - 2.30 (ebook), $8.95 (print)
GENRE - Fantasy
ISBN - 1411633156

Bob the Dragon Slayer is an Arthurian tale of a young peasant, named Bob, who, having acquired a sword named Bruce, sets about making a career for himself by, well, slaying dragons. He meets many interesting characters along the way, including a wizard named Stephan and a knight named Willie, and has many adventures roaming around the countryside on his horse, Spot. As Bob's career advances, a romance emerges, and Bob faces many unforeseen challenges, including, but not limited to the slaying of dragons. The book is written in the style of a great-grandfather relating this legend to his family after a thanksgiving day feast. It's language is simple, straight-forward, and tinged with a healthy dose of sarcasm and wit throughout. Often the language is repetitive and the story stumbles a little because of this, but overall this is a minor drawback to the tale.

The characters do come through as real people, and I found myself developing a fondness for each of them. Throughout the book, the author even manages to occasionally make some limited commentary on human nature. The fact that this commentary is limited is not a bad thing, as it ensures that the other-wise light-hearted story does not get bogged down in the complexities of real life, but still has a good time poking fun at them.

It seems the book is aimed mostly at a young audience, though there are certainly occasional asides that an older reader will enjoy. This book offers a funny and charming jaunt through Bob's life that would make excellent bed-time reading for
children up to about ten years old. The act of writing and relating stories to younger generations is a crucial one, and Harry E. Gilleland Jr. performs this feat quite well. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone looking for something sweet and simple to softly sweep their children to sleep with. This book really shows the usefulness of print on demand in allowing for the sharing of good stories, between friends, family members, or anyone of like mind to their tellers, and that's what this is all about.

RATING: 7/10

10/10 Lulu
10/10 Amazon
9/10 Bookideas
6/10 Reviewcentre
8/10 Molly's reviews


Friday, March 31, 2006

'RealmShift' by Alan Baxter

Reviewed by Ed Kane

TITLE - RealmShift
AUTHOR - Alan Baxter
PRICE - $15.00 (through
GENRE - Contemporary fantasy/dark fantasy
ISBN - 1-4116-6862-6
PUBLISHER - Alan Baxter,

RealmShift has a strong foundation in an unusually coherent fantasy cosmology in which humans, gods and those in between are embroiled in each others' schemes. Upon this Alan Baxter has constructed a sound, logical plot and four main characters with clear motives and identity. The story spends most of its rather slow opening stages with Isiah, a preternatural being whose role in the cosmic 'balance' is only gradually revealed. Carlos, a brutal mercenary, and Samuel an unwilling pawn also have roles to play and journalist, Katherine, is placed in the middle of their schemes. Deep in the jungle Katherine seeks a mysterious crystal skull but it is dangerous men, whom she does not even know exist, that will ultimately determine her fate.

This is a substantial dark fantasy novel written in clear, effective prose. I was impressed with all of the technical aspects from the book which was well edited and seamlessly constructed with a plot that picks up speed slowly but then barrels towards its conclusion.

My greatest complaint is that there are several features that led me to read the story dispassionately, without great involvement with the otherwise convincing characters. The story started slowly with Isiah and only after dozens of pages is the context of his actions properly explained, and the other crucial characters introduced. Most tellingly there are no strong relationships in the story--each important character bounces off incidental supporting characters, co-operates with others for only the most ruthless reasons and pursues his or her goal essentially as a loner until the last third of the book. Most vivid moments in the story for me were in the few recurring meetings such as between Isiah and the 'balance' and with the informally addressed angel 'Gabe', and Katherine almost saying 'I love you' to the boyfriend the reader is never shown.

It is on the closing chapters that the reader is rewarded in the interactions of Isiah, Gabriel and Samuel, and Katherine with her traveling companion Thomas, which we are now fully equipped to understand--and a clear dénouement where all their efforts will protect the cosmic Balance, or unravel it. The final scene, that 460 pages have led inexorably towards, cannot help but be a little anti-climactic.

Alan Baxter shows glimmers of unusual talent in his world building and prose style. However RealmShift bears all the hallmarks of a ‘director’s cut’ and future works would benefit from rather more forceful editing for pace and length.


10/10 Lulu
10/10 Amazon
7/10 Gloomwing


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'The Hawk Flew South' by Phineas Narco

Reviewed by James Buchanan

TITLE: The Hawk Flew South
AUTHOR: Phineas Narco
PRICE: $13.05; e-book: $3.13
GENRE: psychological thriller

This is an interesting and sometimes compelling story of a man’s battle with mental illness. While the author does have some thought provoking things to say, they tend to get bogged down within the framing of the story. Time and again, I found myself skipping large blocks of text. Now as a reviewer, I made myself go back and read them, but it was often hard to do so.

The Hawk is written in both 3rd and 1st person POV. While I understand the concept in trying to show how unattached the Narrator sometimes becomes in his own life it made it hard to follow and often destroyed a scene. Further, the 3rd person character of Nervous Man disappears half way through the book and never comes back. No explanation or epiphany is presented to explain this.

I am certain there are people who will find something meaningful within the novel. There are some grabbing scenes. Overall, however, it could have done with a little more sorting out.

RATING: 5/10

10/10: Lulu


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Please recommend...

POD People is seeking recommendations. We would like to seek out the best self-published books currently available. So please us the comments feature to tell us about any self-published books that truly impressed you--impartial opinions only please.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

'Conviction' by Skylar Hamilton Burris

Reviewer: Stephanie C.

TITLE: Conviction: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
AUTHOR: Skylar Hamilton Burris
PRICE: $13.95
GENRE: Romance/literary
ISBN: 1-58939-597-2
PUBLISHER: Virtual Book Worm

It's one thing to judge a novel on its own merits, but quite another to stand it up against one of the most well-loved satires of the last two centuries. However, Skylar Hamilton Burris' novel can hardly escape this fate, being as it is a POD sequel to none other than Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

In the introduction to Conviction, Burris openly acknowledges her inability to sufficiently mimic Austen's "unique and superbly subtle wit" and it's to her credit, I think, that she takes the liberty of writing in her own style. Consequently, Conviction straddles an obscure boundary between fan fiction, Regency drama and intertextual exploration. The result is something closer to a Georgette Heyer novel than an Austen satire—but this is by no means an unworthy fate.

Conviction opens some six months or so after the wedding of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and the reader is immediately confronted with Georgiana Darcy's "creative plots for thwarting unwanted suitors". While Mr Darcy and the former Elizabeth Bennet feature quite frequently as part of an extensive supporting cast, Burris resists the temptation to indulge in the details of their relationship. Instead she chooses to focus on the romantic aspirations of Kitty Bennet and young Georgiana, and introduces an array of original characters that put new expressions on those much-loved faces.

While occasional bursts of cringe-worthy romance threaten to punch holes in the bottom of this gently lilting society drama, it manages to steer clear of anything that looks too much like fan fiction. The proofing errors are trifling; the language has a period feel without being pretentious or incomprehensible and while the characters lose something of their original shape, they aren't necessarily changing for the worse.

So how does Conviction stack up against Pride and Prejudice? Well, that depends on why you read Austen in the first place. Much of the social criticism and satirical edge is blunted here, although marriage and money still remain central to many of the characters' motivations. Similarly, anyone picking up Conviction to indulge their soft spot for Darcy and Lizzy may be expect to be somewhat disappointed. It's a tough call, because any kind of adaptation may be automatically tainted in the view of hard-core Austenites, but if you can hold the original at arm's length, you may just find yourself enjoying the romantic romp that Burris has offered. I did.

RATING: 7.5/10

9/10: Amazon
POD-dy Mouth


Friday, March 17, 2006

'Graduating into Greatness--Beyond the Books' by Mart A. Nickison

Review by Ed Kane

TITLE: Graduating into Greatness--Beyond the Books: a method for improving your grades without studying your life away
AUTHOR: Marty A. Nickison II
PRICE: CD: $11.95
GENRE: Non-fcition/self help

Mr. Nickison makes a stream of good points that any under-performing undergraduate would do well to heed. The essence of 'Beyond the Books' is presentation--of your work and your person. I might quibble with some of the details (students will need to customise the advice to their own institution) but the overall thrust is a message the best students learn from experience and many would benefit from hearing early in their university careers. I am quite sure that Mr. Nickison also knows that when a student takes the time to present themselves and their work in a professional, polished fashion--the quality of their work tends to follow suit. This book would sit well as the first volume of a series that would go on to tackle other crucial and oft-neglected skills such as networking, building a c.v. and planning ahead for employment (or graduate school).

It is particularly unfortunate that a message about professional presentation suffers from persistent flaws in its own appearance. The jacket graphics go too close to the edge so that parts of words have been cut off, but the graphics on the CD are too small so that the square template can be seen on the round CD. More importantly, Mr. Nickison's informal delivery style sacrifices coherency and some passages are halting and too ungrammatical even for spoken delivery. If this material was presented on a website or a book chapter I would not hesitate to recommend it to my students--but it fails to capitalize on the audio-book format and is a little too slight for the $12 price. I would recommend further polishing of the script with more focus on repeating only the most important points and sufficient rehearsal to make the delivery smooth and effortless to listen too repeatedly, in order to get maximum benefit from the message and audio-book format.

That said, if you are having trouble getting through to a student who simply doesn't understand what is wrong with dressing like a tramp (in either sense of the word), addressing the professor in slang and handing in crumpled, tardy work--Mr. Nickison's informally presented 'insider' advice might be the perfect way to get through to them.

RATING: 5.5/10

8.3: Lulu


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Favorite genre?

The initial round of book reviews is close to being finished! I would love to know if there are any specific genres that visitors would be interested in hearing more about? What genres should I add to the site and actively seek? Just click 'comment' and let me know.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

'Casualty of Duty' by David D. Drexler

Review by Dawno

TITLE: Casualty of Duty
AUTHOR: David W. Drexler
PRICE: $14.99
GENRE: Thriller/polictical
ISBN: 1-905-36377-X
PUBLISHER: Exposure Publishing

What if a Presidential election was found to have been determined by one state’s votes, b ut those computerized votes turned to have been manipulated? Casualty of Duty is based on this intriguing premise. Captain Gary Hallstead is introduced on the first page as the defendant in a court martial. He stands accused of sedition, treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Hallstead is the project manager of a Department of Defense program to create the system that runs the computerized voting for Congressional and Presidential elections. Set in recent years (1996) using fictional political characters, Drexler tells the story of how a dedicated military man, committed to his oath to protect and defend the United States is instead accused of crimes against it and finds himself trapped in circumstances from which he has no escape and left with no one who can vindicate his actions.

Hallstead is a political naïf in the early chapters, but his long time friend and colleague, Larry Davis has a great love of politics and gives him an education in the platforms and personalities of the candidates who will be running for President in the upcoming election.

As the election draws near it becomes apparent that the incumbent, President Anderson stands a very good chance of losing. The challenger, Bill Barnes has chosen a “loose cannon” as his running mate, Ray Kline. Kline had been an opponent in the primaries and his delegates and support in the national campaign were crucial to Barnes’ ultimate success. Kline accepts the second chair and promises to align with Barnes’ agenda.

Unfortunately, in the campaign, Kline breaks his promise and makes statements contrary to Barnes’ position. None of this would matter if there wasn’t a problem that arises that calls into doubt whether Barnes will actually live to become President. This closely guarded secret becomes known to Senator Damon Larsen, who is having an affair with Barnes’ physician’s nurse. The Senator is from the same party as Barnes but he feels that a Kline presidency is worse than losing to the opposing party and starts the sequence of events that leads to Captain Hallstead’s trial. Unbeknownst to the Senator and Hallstead there are many more layers to this conspiracy and the ultimate desires of the instigators are not as they believed them to be.

The idea for this work is a good one that held early promise. The details about the computer programming project, the mindset and attitudes of the military characters and the description of election politics are solid. Where the book falls short is in the machinations of the antagonists – primarily some members Congress, both Democrat and Republican, who feared having Kline in the White House, and of the CIA who are darkly over-dramatic. It strains ones credulity as to the lengths these characters were willing to go in achieving their goals and that they could actually get away with it. Lastly, there are several instances in the plot where the author introduces somewhat maladroit plot devices to ensure that every effort to rescue Hallstead goes awry leaving the reader with a book where justice does not prevail in the end.

As to the construction of the work, the frequent shifts from the first person to the third person point of view are a bit bewildering. A reader is left wondering how the first person narrator knows what’s going on in the back rooms and minds of the other characters. There is also a lot of detailed information written as straight narrative more suited to a freshman political science lecture. Add to that the numerous typographical and grammatical errors and the final analysis is that this story needed strong editorial oversight before it was published.

RATING: 3/10

8/10: Diggory press
7/10: Lighthouse


Friday, February 24, 2006

Talking Point: Being the Y'am

Let us look at two pieces of information.

One is the widely accepted list of ‘good reasons for self-publishing’. My source here is ‘The Street-Smart Writer’ by Glatzer and Steven—an all round good book for the newbie writer. These widely accepted reasons would be: re-releasing an out of print books, niche non-fiction, poetry or short story anthology, a timely subject, a built in audience, as part of a business or just to hold a book in your hands.

Secondly we have what seems to be the single most common reason for self-publishing—confirmed by our very own handy-dandy POD poll. “Because I was unable to secure a traditional publisher”: (running at 48% of respondents).

So, if this is not a good reason to self-publish, what is a person meant to do when they have made a reasonable effort to secure a publisher and failed. The options seem to be:

1) Try harder. Approach smaller publishers. Yes, well, point taken. Maybe many people give up too soon. How many well prepared queries is enough before you realize it just ain’t gonna happen? And as you move to smaller presses there are diminishing returns for your ever increasing effort.

2) Put it in the drawer or burn it, and write another, better book. Yes, well, perhaps there are some self-denying paragons destined for NY Times bester seller list greatness who are doing just this. More power to them, they wouldn’t want their earlier, flawed efforts to be out there in a world as an embarrassment to them in their later years. But I bet there are also a lot of people throwing out the only book they will ever write, or going on to write more and more books—none of which will ever find an audience.

As a reasonably impartial observer I would have to say that if you have made a fair effort and not secured a traditional publisher, why not self-publish the damn thing. Even if it ends up making only average sales for a self-published book (figures vary but 20-75 copies seem to be the range) then it has, in its own humble way, done what a book is meant to do. It has communicated with a reader, or two, or fifty. There are worse things.

Now, thinking that self-publishing is likely to lead to being picked up by a major publisher, or become a grass roots underground best seller that propels you to stardom—well, maybe it does happen but so does winning the lottery. So sue me I am not a lottery ticket buyer, and even people who are generally keep paying into their pension funds rather than fastening their undying hopes on buying that Caribbean island they always wanted with an over-sized check.

But if you looked at the book manuscript in your hands and consigned it to Lulu or Cafepress rather than the pyre, what is wrong with that? So long as you’re your motivations are honest and your expectations are reasonable you can say, like any self-publisher author: I y’am what I y’am.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Jackson Corners' by Jennifer L. Hart

TITLE: Jackson Corners
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Hart
PRICE: $14.95 printed, $5.59 download
GENRE: Contemporary fiction
ISBN: 1-4116-7078-7
PUBLISHER: Jennifer L. Hart via

Isabella Roberts is looking for a change. After a messy divorce to an anal-retentive husband, she bundles her two-year-old daughter out of the city and purchases a house in sleepy Jackson Corners. There she meets handsome, brooding Noah Davis, and learns that while her new home may come with neighbourly assistance and friendly faces, it also a lugs around a swathe of emotional baggage.

There’s one rule of thumb for writing a decent mystery: Plot Is Everything. Jennifer L Hart knows her plot and ought to be commended for her firm handling of it. Jackson Corners is fed to the reader with the utmost care and not a piece of information comes too soon. Every character is suspect; every action has an ulterior motive. The sinister presence lurking in Jackson Corners waits until the final moment to reveal itself and while the moment isn’t particularly shocking—everyone’s a suspect here, remember—it does deserve a shout of approval for keeping the guesses going so long.

Unfortunately, as all too often happens with mysteries, character and authenticity falter at the hands of the storyline. In particular, the sexual tension between some of the more prominent characters has a tendency to collapse into the realm of the undeniably cheesy. The prose itself is as contemporary as the world the characters inhabit: email and telephones are on equal footing and it’s completely normal for most of the characters to be (or see) a therapist. Word usage and proofing errors are the only real stumbling block in what is otherwise quite lively and well-planned prose. The extradiagetic narrative helps immensely and multiple points of view stop the story from lingering too long in any one place.

Ultimately though, it’s the plot that drives this novel forward. A real solid effort on that count.




Monday, February 13, 2006

'Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems' by Harry E. Gilleland Jr.

Reviewed by Jon Stone

TITLE: Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems
AUTHOR: Harry E. Gilleland Jr.
PRICE: $13.00 (US)
GENRE: Poetry
ISBN: 1-4116-2927-2

'Poetry' is an odd word. The blurb to 'Storoems and Poems' promises writing that is 'for all readers, both poetry lovers and those who do not usually read poetry', while the author, in his bio, is said to be 'passionate about his poetry'. A quick recky onto Gilleland's Lulu site unearths quite a few fellow enthusiasts (albeit mostly friends and family,) who in turn salute his 'great poetry'. I do feel, however, that in this case, the word 'poetry' means something like 'genial reflections and thoughts of a respectable and warm-hearted human being, laid out in simple rhyme'. As a poetry enthusiast (i.e. I buy more books of poetry than I do novels, or CD's, or socks, or pretty much anything else,) I did find the book lacking in what I've come to expect from poetry.

It is strange to me, for instance, to find Gilleland crediting himself with the creation of the 'storoem' (a hybrid between a story and a poem,) without any mention of narrative poems or prose poems, which are, in different ways, the same thing. There are very few poetic techniques employed throughout the book. There is a great deal of rhyme, though it is sometimes forced, and a grasp of iambic and trochaic rhythms. There are welcome touches of enjambement too, and sometimes personification (a continent 'stumbles' in the acrostic 'AFRICA'). But I found original metaphors and similes very scarce, and the dominant form of the book is four line stanzas, rhymed ABAB, which does become tiresome. There is no strictly formal poetry in here (by which I mean no sonnets, triolets, villanelles, rondeaus, sestinas or the like,) and no real experimentation with language.

Of course, poetry isn't all about technique. But in terms of content too, I did find it hard to be moved. There is condemnation of genocide and despair at war, but it feels strangely second-hand for an author who served as a captain in Vietnam, while many of the interesting stories about animals are, at the poet's own confession, based entirely on wildlife documentaries. I was eager for some expert insights into the natural world (Gilleland was Professor of Microbiology at Louisiana State University,) but found myself disappointed. Much of the philosophy too, while sound, is age old common sense rather than visionary.

That said, I think we need to take the book on its merits. Gilleland is not, after all, competing for quite the same audience as Carol Ann Duffy. Indeed, it's unlikely his fans are into modern poetry in quite the same way as I understand it. His character comes through strongly in the book, and he is, quite obviously, a gentle and intelligent man with both a sense of humour and a childlike sense of wonder. His stories are good fun, and the subjects ranging. He is also quite free of malice, pretentiousness and ill-thought out political opinions. Reading his poems is rather like spending some time in his company, and I can certainly think of worse things to do.

RATING: 4/10

8.5/10 Lulu
10/10 Molly’s Reviews
10/10 Muses Review
10/10 Amazon


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Upcoming Reviews

* Conviction: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Skylar Burris
* Jackson Corners by Jennifer L. Hart
* Casualty of Duty by David Drexler
reader* Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems by Harry Gilleland
* Bob the Dragon Slayer by Harry Gilleland
* Cashing in on College by Marty A Nickison

Also: 5 books queued

Sunday, February 05, 2006

'A River Transformed: Wang Wei’s River Wang Poems as Inspiration' by Gary Blankenship

Reviewer: James Midgley

TITLE: A River Transformed: Wang Wei’s River Wang Poems as Inspiration
AUTHOR: Gary Blankenship
PRICE: print: $15.00, ebook:$8.35
ISBN: 1-4116-6227-X

Blankenship’s A River Transformed is an engaging, visceral journey through the landscape of his verse and its relationship with the Chinese poetry that served as inspiration. If nothing else, the first twenty poems are an interesting look into intertextuality, with Blankenship’s poems juxtaposed directly with their corresponding progenitors.

The comparisons between each poem are obvious in content as well as stylistically; the poems inherit the disposition toward unadulterated images to communicate, much the disposition Ezra Pound injected into western poetry in the early 20th century. This results in endlessly tangible verse, but often the point of clarity, that climax of comprehension, is grasped at but never quite pinned down.

The workmanship also varies, with brilliantly poignant lines such as ‘in a world without walls, there are no windows / to hold the moon, my songs’ mixed with such over-modified, redundant disasters as ‘I tap dull keys in muted silence’. One wonders, too, how well these poems sustain the Zen orientation of their parents, especially with the introduction of direct narratives. The vers libre is generally well controlled and wholesome, and Blankenship has an understanding of the line that is rare amongst his contemporaries, possibly thanks to his keen interest in ancient Chinese poesy. In attempting stricter forms, however, such as the later pantun, the poet appears obviously stretched.

Blankenship manages to make much of his verse relevant, which is certainly to his credit considering the gap of time, language and context he has to work with. Often, though, this reader is left wondering just what the point is; it seems that much of the time the link is more important than that the poem work under its own steam. For someone interested in examining inspiration, intertextuality or the original poems themselves, this is ideal, but for those simply looking for evocative, intellectually stimulating poetry, on many occasions this collection falls short.

Furthermore, the relationship across time, the connection between the parent works and these contemporary pieces, is never used except as a raison d'être. There seems to be little meaningful interplay or commentary on the act of updating beyond the constant reminder that this is what is being done.

In and of themselves, it is the final poems of the collection that prove more fulfilling. They are often surprising and a genuinely interesting mix of modern life influenced by their ancient sources. Again, though, no reason is placed behind the mix, no salient factor arises that justifies ancient Chinese influence in the contemporary world, and the question itself is barely touched upon; indeed, when it is examined, it is under the guise of linguistics and translation, rather than anything that could be considered a poetic manifesto.

The value of the book, then, resides in what one demands of it. For someone interested in the process of writing poetry, ancient Chinese poesy, intertextuality and the motions of inspiration, it is difficult to imagine a more suitable collection. The gimmickless, visceral style is a breath of fresh air, regardless, and one can almost forgive the book’s flaws for its brave resurrection of the imagist approach.

RATING: 6.5/10

9/10: Lulu


Saturday, February 04, 2006

'Trading Ashes for Beauty: The Phoenix’s Song' by Ron Viers

TITLE: Trading Ashes for Beauty: The Phoenix’s Song
AUTHOR: Ron Viers
EIDTOR: Mia Coleman
PRICE: $15.99
GENRE: Gay & Lesbian/Memoir
ISBN: 1-4116-7535-5

Pride and jealousy were beginning to wage war in the house of God. p.24

There is a great deal of courage in this book. Personal testimonials are some of the most heart wrenching pieces to write. Ron Viers bares his soul to a world which doesn’t often accept what he is… a Gay man. That same soul is open to the GLBT community that might not understand as well. Christianity is something that has betrayed many of us. A place where, especially in the evangelical churches I’m familiar with, diversity and God don’t coexist. Like oil and water the two will never mix.

At its simplest level this is a narrative of the rise and fall of a Southern, GLBT evangelical church. Another is the story of a close knit group of people who share a common goal and faith. On a higher plane it is “Testimonial” of faith. There were times when it happened… the all the hair on my body standing on end.

It’s an entertaining afternoon’s read. Ron is a decent writer – decent enough that I was left wanting more (and I’ll explain that at the end). He takes his own life back to the scripture at times and that’s a nice tie in. There’s no hesitation in telling us that he questions The Plan at times. “God, are you smokin’ crack?!” (p.40) he comments at one point. Questions, misunderstandings and lack of comprehension are presented unvarnished. The preachers, deacons and pastors are humans who screw up. Given who they are, those screw ups affect more lives then just their own.

I would have like to have heard of how Ron and Michael’s relationship began at an earlier in the book instead of in Chapter 6. It would have given some of the conflict in Ron’s secular life a grounding that seemed a little lacking otherwise. When you finally get the background, you have an “aha” moment.

I would have liked to have seen some of the songs he had written. Why choose Steve Nix when you could have given us Ron Viers? I would have liked to have “heard” the conversations between the personas dramatique although I understand how memory is hard after a time and those bits are lost. I think as a testimonial, the book would have been more effective with more personalization. Although he does have a gift of perception, an ability to tie the characters into the metaphor of their station, we’re left a little wanting about who these people are.

I want to know about the church and the people in it. I’ve been to evangelical services. When Ron says the Pastor spoke in Tongues or they Laid them Down, I know what he means. I’m not certain readers outside the movements would. I’ve watched people go catatonic at the touch of a preacher whom they feel is Speaking In The Lord. Most people have never seen such things. Another 100 pages of those types of detail would have given the reader a far deeper connection. That bond with the congregation would have helped explain why many of the events within the book were so shattering to the flock.

Ultimately, I wish he’d written it and put it in the drawer for a year.

For us to understand, Ron needs to have moved past the hurt. The pain he’s gone through is still too raw. While I may not be of the same religion as Ron, it is not that different. We are all often called upon to do things that we don’t yet understand. I believe that his heart is true. I believe that he has been called by his faith to write this. I also believe that he has jumped the gun in getting the word out there. In the end we’re left with the story of a man who comes off as bitter and betrayed (not unjustifiably so). Ron is still in the stages of betrayal and grief – which maybe where he needed to write the book from. It is not where he needed to publish it from.

The book just isn’t finished… the Phoenix hasn’t risen yet.

RATING 6.5/10

Review by James Buchanan

Please Query

We remain 'closed to submissions' as most of our reviewers are currently occupied or unavailable. You may send an email providing your book title and genre so that we can notify you when submissions re-open. If your book is a romance you may submit the book without querying first.

'The Vomit Factory (Life is Fake: Death is Good)' by Alexander T. Newport

TITLE:The Vomit Factory (Life Is Fake: Death Is Good)
AUTHOR:Alexander T. Newport
PRICE: Free Download, book: $13.47
GENRE: Philosophy

Dig: "The Vomit Factory (Life is Fake: Death is Good): Temper Tantrums, Freak-outs, Philobabble, Rants" by Alexander T. Newport, is accurately titled. It's basically a long diary, all about the author's unhappiness and general discontent with the world. After a brief note about why spelling doesn't matter to him, because it's his book god dammit and he can do whatever he wants, he introduces us to some of his ideas about immortality. For example, how life is just a "dreamgame" which we've chosen to take part in as some kind of vacation from our "homestate of awareness" (which is supposedly infinitely blissful) by donning our "virtual reality skin-suits." And dig: Mr. Newport presents these ideas with a unique tone, using words like "dig" a lot (he always spells "a lot" "alot" by the way, because it's his book and he can) to really draw us in.

Unfortunately, Mr.Newport never really gets past the presentation of these ideas, into what they actually are, or what they might mean to anyone but him. He goes in long, ranty, depressing circles about how crummy everybody is, especially to self-imposed outcasts such as himself. But dig: this gets old real fast. It's too bad, because I'm sure Mr. Newport has some pretty interesting ideas. I'm sure a conversation with him would be a real trip. But anything of merit that Mr. Newport might have to say gets drowned out in the whiney, self-pitying, nonsense that makes up most of the book. It's an un-organized, badly (or barely) edited collection of diary entries, dreams, poems, and other pieces of his personal life (including several grainy, seemingly pointless photos of him and his cats), shoved into one volume, and presented as a book. But there's no coherence, and I found myself getting frustrated by this quite rapidly. I have to admit I couldn't get through all of it, at a certain point it just seemed clear that it wasn't worth investing any more of my time into.

There's some funny parts in the book, and I can't completely hate something that gave me a few chuckles, but I can't recommend buying this to anyone. In fact, I really wish I could get my money back. The author includes several rejection letters from publishers in the book, most of which are scathing refusals to have anything to do with him, and generally expressing anger for wasting their time. My question is this: why include this in a book if you want the book to be successful? I get the feeling that Mr. Newport, somewhere, doesn't want the book to be successful, and if he doesn't care, then why should I? The book is available for free in .pdf format, so you might want to give it a look yourself if you're really into self-pitying nihilism, but otherwise...pass. Dig?

RATING: 4/10

10/10: Lulu


Thursday, February 02, 2006


Please let us know about any other contests open to self-published books of any type.

Writer’s Digest
Entry Fee $100
Prize worth $15000 approx.
Specifically for self-published books
Closing date, 1 May 2006

FFWA Contest
Entry fee $10
Prize $100
Self-published counted as non-published
Closing date, 15 March 2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

'The Promise Of Eden' by Eric Durchholz

TITLE: The Promise Of Eden
AUTHOR: Eric Durchholz /
PRICE: $19.72
GENRE: Fantasy/Horror
ISBN: pending
PUBLISHER: Lulu / Concrete7

In the aftermath of a showdown between ghosts and gods, sixteen-year-old Gregory Coleman explains to his lawyer that things aren't as they seem. A conspiracy is afoot and it has to do with... well... lots of things, actually, but mainly ghosts. In particular, a ghost called Anna, who enlists Gregory to help her find heaven.

Eric Durchholtz's The Promise of Eden finds space for everything and I'm really not exaggerating. There are large slices of homoerotica, forbidden love and family issues on offer, not to mention the hidden agendas and growing pains thrown in. What could be more exciting than washing it all down with an almighty splash of the paranormal and a lick of science fiction?

Unfortunately, lack of suspense leaves the fantastical plot to flounder by itself for over 400 pages, and it's a bit of a stretch. This is partly due to Durchholtz's style, which is straightforward and easy to read but somewhat lacking in energy. The storyline is practically begging for shock value—it's so absurd that the twists ought to be damn well unpickable—but the reader is let down at every turn by the narrator's habit of anticipating the tale before he tells it. Information leaps out of nowhere and is validated as an afterthought, while intriguing ideas about god and religion are completely overshadowed by the straight-outta-left-field introduction of ghost-on-human sex.

To Durchholtz's credit (and the reader's relief) no loose ends are left flapping in the wind, although one could be forgiven for wondering if the story needed quite so many threads. Points are won for sheer originality but lost again in the search for suspense—and perhaps a better proofreader.

For fantasy fans looking for something... different.

RATING: 4/10



Reviewer: Stephanie C.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

'Another Worldly Device' by Serdar Yegulalp

TITLE: Another Worldly Device
AUTHOR: Serdar Yegulalp
PRICE: $6.39 (download); $15.39 (printed)
ISBN: None

‘Another Worldly Device’ drops you into the life of a quietly precocious eleven year old girl just as her life undergoes an abrupt change. The opening mystery is: who breaks into Jane’s house and violently abducts her foster parents, and why? As Jane’s story progresses a fascinating group of people fall into her life, mysteries are developed and exposed and an adventure plot is melded seamlessly with a unique coming of age story.

Sometimes I found myself rather surprised at the direction the author took the many possibilities Jane’s story offered, and the opening scene is something of a ‘flash forward’ that the main narrative takes a while to catch up with—but these quirks only add to the book’s unique overall flavor. The only tiny element I found unconvincing where some of the situations the young protagonist was allowed, by various adult characters, to get into.

Serdar Yegulalp’s writing is immensely adept. Jane’s first person narrative is gripping from the very beginning. ‘Another Worldly Device’ is magical realism at its most subtle and convincing, and a prime example of the type of self-published novel I hoped to see when started this review site. This is the kind of book that you finish reading and find yourself staring into space, digesting and rather regretting that it is all over, while still somehow feeling that the characters lives are going on beyond the pages somewhere just out of sight.

RATING: 9/10


Monday, January 30, 2006

Lurkers Speak Up

There's a little button just at the bottom of this message that say 'COMMENT'. Please let us know why you dropped by. Are you the author of a self-published book, or considering becoming one? Are you a reader of self-published books? Just pipe up and say hi, and let us know about your own websites, blogs and books.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

'Salvation' by Simon G. Scott

TITLE: Salvation (Book 1—a God’s Testament)
AUTHOR: Simon G. Scott
PRICE: Book: $7.58, e-book: $1.91

Salvation opens with an epic battle between good and evil gods in a timeless celestial world. The early protagonist of the story is Edmund, an angel who dies defending heaven, but then moves to Balic a god of terror who walks from the battlefield victorious but dissatisfied. The discovery of a new, human world opens up new possibilities.

Simon G. Scott’s prose is smooth and vivid with only very minor errors. While both Edmund and Balic are well-developed characters and I found each scene engaging, the overall narrative constantly changes direction and ends up feeling disjointed especially in the middle chapters. Salvation is filled with characters based on, and presumably depicted as, precursors of human gods from many cultures. However the connection between these characters and their name-sakes seemed under-developed.

‘Salvation’ is not at all difficult to read, but for a short work (less than 20,000 words) it lacks the focus and central narrative needed to truly grab my attention and interest me in reading any sequels (as implied by the ‘Book 1’ subtitle). However the fast moving martial action and intriguing ending suggests that the book may appeal to younger readers.

RATING: 5/10

SEE ALSO: (ratings scaled to /10)
8/10 Lulu


Friday, January 27, 2006

POD Poll: ebooks for teens

A question from Lynne D. McCloskey (NADBooks)

"I would like to know the answer to the question, Do you purchase eBooks for your teenagers, or do they purchase them for themselves? Why or why not? How often? What genres?" (please comment below)

Fiction for teens...(please comment about your answers)

I am a teen who buys ebooks

I am a teen who does not buy ebooks

I buy ebooks for a teen

I do no but ebooks for a teen

not applicable (not a teen or buying for a teen)

View Results

Thursday, January 26, 2006

'Bardic Tales and Sage Advice: an anthology of speculative fiction' edited by Julie Ann Dawson

TITLE: Bardic Tales and Sage Advice: an anthology of speculative fiction
EDITORS: Julie Ann Dawson, Colleen Schonat, Julie Hedge, and Stijn Hommes
PRICE: book $12.99, download $5.74
ISBN: #1-4116-6029-3

It was very difficult to rate this anthology because at its best it is stunning. 'Reflexion' for example, is a narrative poem that tells a fascinating story with flashes of breath-taking imagery. This long poem on is an effortless 10/10. The other poems are more of a mixed bag.

The lead story 'Winter of the Gods' reads very much as a first chapter rather than a complete story, but if this tale should every be developed into novel I would definitely be buying a copy. The author, Elena Clark, plays on the strengths of high fantasy with deep magic and epic conflicts but steers clear of the clichés by using a solid, unique mythos rather than the usual sword and sorcery trappings.

Amongst the other stories 'Through a Data Storm' is a fresh, if heavy handed dystopian tale, 'Netherlands Roulette' shows us an utterly convincing future where crime and violence are suppressed causing a new range of problems, and 'Them' is a wonderful science fiction story with a sly surprise ending.

All of the stories are well worth reading but tend to lack fully developed or resolved plot-lines which can have unsatisfying results. Overall ‘Bardic Tales and Sage Advice’ is a diamond in the rough, and perhaps future editions will more fully exploit the obvious potential for novice voices to use and transform the standard devices of speculative fiction.

RATING: 6.5/10

SEE ALSO: (ratings scaled to /10)
8/10 Amazon
10/10 Lulu
8/10 Gloomwing
9/10 Club Reading


Saturday, January 21, 2006

New Web Archive

Reviews will now also be archived at PODindex -- comments on the design and structure of the website would be very welcome. Currently only one review is posted but I would love to know how things look before the site grows too large to easily change and restructure.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gold Star Wife by L. K. Campbell

TITLE: Gold Star Wife
AUTHOR: L. K. Campbell
PRICE: book $9.99, download $1.37
ISBN: #1-4116-4965-6

It is a sad fact that many romance writers use history as a sort of unconvincing studio set against which to set their overblown adventures and jarringly modern heroines. I was thrilled to find that, in contrast, L. K. Campbell has written a genuine historical love story--the people, events and plot submerged me in the post WWII period. She has managed to write characters that are part of their times without being inaccessible or unsympathetic to a modern reader.

Janet is a war widow coping with three children; Paul is a bachelor who crossed her path years before. The first chapter of ‘Gold Star Wife’ is a bit daunting as I settled into the period, writing style and cast of characters. However by the middle of the book I found myself feeling almost as if I was reading the memoirs of real people, and I so yearned for Janet and Paul to find happiness with each other.

The obstacles that the characters face in the book are set in the shadow of the immediate post war years but are drawn on a more intimate and engrossing scale. Will Janet’s friends' match making plans bear fruit? Has Paul moved too quickly? How can Janet explain things to her children—the oldest still dealing with his father’s death? At every step love is shown as life’s greatest joy but not an instant solution to all its problems.

Heart warming but never cloying I found this authentic historical love story to be a welcome change from standard historical romances; I would recommend it highly to anyone seeking a romance story that is rewarding and charming but still intelligent and true to life.

RATING: 8/10

SEE ALSO: (ratings scaled to /10)
10/10 Lulu
8/10 Fallen Angel Reviews
10/10 Romance Junkies
10/10 Coffee Time Romance