Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of Under the Microscope by Jane Bennett Munro


Title: Murder Under the Microscope
Author: Jane Bennett Munro
Genre: Mystery
Price: $ 5.99 ebook/ $ 18.93 Paperback
Publisher: iuniverse.com
ISBN-10: 1450298621
Reviewed by: Erica Moulton

I love a good murder mystery.  Ones with twists and turns.  I know it is a good book if I am tempted to skip right to the end because I can't stand the suspense of who-did-it-and-why.  That is why I could not pass up an opportunity to review Murder Under the Microscope by Forensic Pathologist Jane Bennett Munro.
Dr. Munro's in depth knowledge of pathology and how a hospital functions is evident in the book.  The writing is thick with jargon related to the medical field and sometimes it was over my head.  Despite this, I did enjoy the book.  I thought it had a strong story line with just enough scandal to make it interesting but still keeping it plausible.  I do think that in the future, some research into how crimes are solved would be beneficial as I had a hard time buying that the police would involve a suspect as deeply as they involved Dr. Day (main character in the book). 
In the novel, Dr. Munro seemed to have infused two story lines together in one novel.  Building up to and solving the murder would have been satisfying enough to entertain the reader without the introduction of another complication of a blast from the past clouding the current storyline.  I would have preferred to have followed the storyline of the blast from the past in a separate novel.  Both story lines made for entertaining stories, just when together at times it was overwhelming to keep up with it all.  Sometimes less is more and with 418 pages in this one novel, the content could have easily been split into two. 
I am giving a rating of 6.5/10. 
Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, December 28, 2013


What is it?

BookTrakr is a site that promises to track your self-published sales from the main platfroms such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  I am trying the beta version and would be interested in hearing from other authors trying this or similar services.

Good points

1) A really useful service especially for platfroms like kindle that are difficult to use and do not store lifetime sales data.

2) So far it seems pretty easy to use.


1) You have to give log in details for each platform which is not something everyone will be comfortable with, and it means that data is out there on another site and so more vulnerable to hacking etc.

2) Eventually this will become a service you have to pay for.

3) The sales data seems accurate except it does nto seem to count returns, but the earnings data seems way off so I would not use this for accounting.

4) I am having glitchs with some checked and accurate log in data not be accepted.

Monday, December 23, 2013

REVIEW: Embustero

Title: Embustero
Genre: science fiction
Price: $2.99 (ebook) $11.25 (paperback)
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1480074729
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Embustero is the second novel in Scott Cleveland’s Pale Boundaries universe.  It starts very much right after the events of the first novel.  Fortunately for this reader (who reviewed the book years ago) everything you need to know about the previous book is provided.

In essence, Terson Reilly, the protagonist, has discovered that Nivia, the world he’s living on, has a well-hidden secret colony on a supposedly-uninhabited continent.  This colony is governed by a mafia-like organization, who besides hiding it are using it as a base for their various criminal enterprises.  In the first book, Reilly learned too much, and so an attempt was made to kill him.  It failed.

In this book we have two plots that are largely moving independently of each other.  Reilly, having escaped with his life, is trying to make a go of things with his rescuers, who have secrets of their own, while back on Nivia the mafia is dealing with various problems caused by Reilly and other local unrest.  There’s a bit less action in this book than in Pale Boundaries, but more mystery and intrigue, so overall it’s a wash.

In reading my previous review, I noted that Cleveland did several things in his writing that I didn’t approve of.  I note with pleasure that in Embustero Cleveland “fixed” those problems.  Overall, I found Embustero well worth the read, and I look forward to his next novel.


Saturday, December 14, 2013


Title: Doubt
Author: Anne-Rae Vasquez
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $1.99 (ebook) 
Publisher: AR Publishing
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Psyche

While the notion of beautiful young people using a video game to organize a revolutionary social movement might sound exciting, it fails somewhat in the execution.  There are a lot of characters who are quite bitchy towards each other.  The story gets bogged down in details that never seem to have much significance.

My inability to find any of the characters interesting, and the vagueness of key facts like what the Truth Seekers game is, and what it was designed to to, prevented me from developing any real interest in the story.  My feeling is that if this had been written with a better focus on the two main characters and their goals (especially Harry's) it would have been the first half of a much better novel.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

REVIEW: Sherlocked:The Secret of the Holy Death

Title: Sherlocked: The Secret of the Holy Death
Author: Asif Khan
Genre: Mystery
Price: $2.99 (ebook) 
Publisher: None
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: veinglory

As suggested by the title, Sherlocked by Asif Khan is BBC Sherlock fan-fiction.  It includes the named mentioned of characters from the show including Sally Donovan. On the other hand Watson is shown as a practicing doctor, which is not the case in the BBC version.

There are serious issues throughout the story with grammar, punctuation, and tense. Also people are constantly thinking and speaking in exclamations (!). And the cover has nothing to do with the story at all, which is a tad disappointing.

Quite long sections take on unnecessarily detailed and technically correct form. I discovered that this is because they come straight from Wikipedia, for example: "The Bengal tiger's coat is yellow to light orange, with stripes ranging from dark brown to black; the belly and the interior parts of the limbs are white, and the tail is orange with black rings."

The mystery itself is competent but not especially clever, and the entire story takes only a few minutes to read.  So, given the poor technical quality and inappropriate fan-fiction elements I think I have to give this one 1/10.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

REVIEW: Dogging

Title: Dogging -- the inside story of outdoor sexAuthor: Abby GoldGenre: Erotica?Price: $4.99 (ebook)Publisher: Spire PublishingISBN: B00AMSDBS8
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner

Dogging is a relatively non-explicit set of stories from the world of people who meet for sex with strangers in outdoor areas.The book is humorous in sections, but most chapter also include someone being hurt by the activity, directly or indirectly.

The most frequent scenario being groups of men having sex with a woman either alone or with her boyfriend presence -- so I assume this is typical for the local scene.  The issue of safe sex is noticeably  from most of the stories and its consequences from all of them. A lot of the protagonists are fairly unpleasant and even those that are well-meaning are extremely flawed.

Overall this feels like a themed collection of short stories rather than a novel. the point of views range from male to female, good and bad experiences, cops, fiances, writers, tourists, sex-dolls, fantasies and dreams. Some stories are connected but most are not.  I suspect a slightly shorter collection with more connections might have had more overall impact.

This book is interesting and occasionally thought-provoking but still leaves one wondering what to think of short stories, acting like a documentary and packaged like a novel. Reading it was entertaining but I do not know who I would recommend this book to as, for all its interesting elements, it is not sexually titillating, not actually true, and not quite literary.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

REVIEW: The Big Dash

Title: The Big Dash
Author: Robert Hanley
Genre: SF / Space Opera
Price: $4.00 (ebook)
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
ISBN: 978-1-4836-5039-5
Point of Sale: Amazon Publisher's site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

At last week's Windycon, I bought The Big Dash from Eggplant Literary Productions. Eggplant is a small e-press, which until recently was focused on novellas. (They just opened to novels.) 

The Big Dash is one of their novellas, and is hard-boiled SF. It's the kind of story where a character will say something like "he tried to play some chin music in the key of Me-flat" and deliver said line with (presumably) a straight face. The story is narrated by Jaxon Test, security chief on the FTL ship Arrow. He's a standard hard-boiled "ship's dick" and is nominally on a milk run, which includes escorting the daughter of a major shareholder of the ship's company. (She and her father are both aliens, by the way.)

Of course, the milk run proves to be anything but, which is what makes the story entertaining. The science portion of the story is pretty light - FTL just works and trips between stars are a matter of days - but the entertainment value is high.

I personally found The Big Dash very enjoyable.


Monday, November 18, 2013

REVIEW: The Quiet Front

Title: The Quiet Front
Author: Tim Akers
Genre: fantasy (novella)
Price: $0.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Tim Akers is a friend of mine, and he’s also a commercially-published author.  However, like many authors, he’s written stuff that he can’t find a home for, but which is worth reading.  One of those items is the novella The Quiet Front.  It’s set in an alternate World War Two, one in which the Royal Arcane Air Corps is working with the Soviet NKTD, the Commissariat Arcane.  They enlist Lt. Samuel Obern of the US Army Arcane to ride behind the lines in His Majesty’s Airship Sulis, there to do daring deeds.

The story is short, probably 30 pages if on paper, but very engrossing.  Tim’s specialty is “the new weird” and here he creates a world that’s both weird and oddly familiar.  Needless to say, the secret mission is dangerous, but vital to success in the war.  The characters are well-developed, and Tim brings his own vision of magic to the work.  I found it highly entertaining.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interesting Guardian Category

I recently noticed that the UK paper has a tag for :"self-publishing showcase".  In my experience the Guardian has leaned rather negative and hostile in a lot of its coverage of self-publishing.  But this tag pulls out some of the more "glass half full" material.

Monday, September 23, 2013

REVIEW: Cubs to Bonanzas

Title: Cubs to Bonanzas: A 65-Year Perspective Through A Pilot’s Eyes
Author: Richard A. Komm
Genre: memoir
Price: $3.99 (ebook) / $15.99 (paperback)
Publisher: XLibris
ISBN: 978-1-4836-5039-5
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

In 1947, a 15-year-old boy named Richard Komm got himself to a grass airfield in St. Louis, Mo.  There, he met Walt Withrow, a man who had learned to fly in open-cockpit planes.  Walt gave Richard flying lessons, and thus was born an enduring love affair with aviation.  This love affair, and the things that happened during that affair, are the subject of this slim memoir, Cubs to Bonanzas.

The Cubs to Bonanzas of the title refers to the first plane Komm flew, a Piper Cub, and the current aircraft Komm owns, a Bonanza B-35.  Written in a conversational style, this book discusses how Komm learned to fly, the several aircraft he owned, and a number of interesting incidents he had over the years.  Many of these incidents involved nearly crashing due to weather, malfunction or some combination thereof, and are common piloting stories.

They may be common stories, but Komm tells them in an uncommonly-entertaining style.  Komm keeps the pilotese to a minimum, and focuses on both the entertaining and important aspects of these stories.  As of the writing of the book, Komm had joined the UFO Club (United Flying Octogenarians, a club reserved for those over age 80 still flying as pilots-in-command) and so Komm has a wealth of information to impart, especially about flying before many of the modern instruments were invented.

The last chapter of the book goes into 10 technical lessons learned in Komm’s flying career.  These may seem not applicable to a general audience, but the operant word is “seems.”  Things like planning ahead, knowing yourself and your equipment are solid words of advice for anybody doing anything.  In short, I found Cubs to Bonanzas an enjoyable if brief read. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

REVIEW: Kindreds: An Alliance of Bloods

Title: Kindreds: An Alliance of Bloods
Author: Tani Mura
Genre: novel
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

When I started reading Kindreds, I found myself following a mental checklist.  Plucky female heroine with convenient and atypical combat skills?  Check.  Dystopian future America ruled by crazed dictator?  Check.  One big capital city where everybody likes Latin names?  Check.  The checklist was that of “Hunger Games fanfic” and Tani Mura hit all the marks.  Now, she doesn’t have a gladiatorial game, and her society is organized along lines of strict racial segregation, so Suzanne Collins isn’t going to be suing for copyright infringement, but Kindreds is clearly influenced and patterned after Hunger Games

Having said that, I rather enjoyed the Hunger Games, so I was hopeful for Kindreds.  But I find myself ambivalent at best over Ms. Mura’s story.  One of the many tropes of fantasy is “The Chosen One” – some person born to save us all.  Here, Ms. Mura’s lead character Raine is that chosen one, although per the standard script, Raine doesn’t realize she’s chosen until much later. 

And Kindreds is really fantasy, not science fiction.  The technology is more technobabble, and geology seems to have been ignored in the creation of the world.  I found many of the secondary characters cardboard cutouts, and some of the action sequences not very plausible.  Per Mura’s blog, she’s writing as a hobby.  There’s nothing wrong with that (I’m certainly not making a living writing) but this piece of hobby-writing didn’t strike me as worth the effort.  The only reason I’m rating it as a six out of ten is that the presentation and editing is well-done, and if you’re looking for more in the Hunger Games world this may fit your bill.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

REVIEW: Dialogues of a Crime

Title: Dialogues of a Crime

Author: John K. Manos
Genre: novel
Price: $4.95 (ebook) / $13.70 (paperback)
Publisher: Amika Press
ASN: 978-1937484132
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Dialogues of a Crime is an interesting book.  It’s billed as “examine[ing] guilt, innocence and the long-term ramifications of crime and punishment in a gray area where the personal lives of perpetrators, victims and law officers overlap.”  That may make it sound like a crime novel or mystery, but it is neither of those.

The story starts with a man being thrown off of a roof, and then goes to 1972, where Michael Pollitz, a nineteen-year-old college student, is being arrested in his dorm.  Due to poor legal help, Michael ends up in prison, where he is brutally and graphically raped.  He has a personal friendship with a Chicago mobster, and asks that the Mob kill his attackers.  The story then picks up in 1994, with Chicago PD detective Larry Klinger investigating a tip that a mobster ordered a hit on two convicts.  We soon discover that the convicts in question are Pollitz’s attackers.

As I said, no real mystery to solve.  The plot, then is whether or not Pollitz will give up his mobster friend, with a side plot of Klinger trying to decide if justice would even be served by forcing the issue.  The book really is dialogues – the only action sequence is the rape, and sensitive readers are advised that it’s portrayed graphically.

At 300 pages, the novel is a fairly quick read, and generally well-written.  John Manos, the author, has what I found to be a somewhat irritating narrative voice, and is fond of telling us what people will be thinking later.  He also tends to “hop heads” – jumping from one character to another’s POV within the same scene.

Having said that, I found these flaws minor.  The story works on its own terms as a discussion of crime, morality, and loyalty to family and friends.  It’s definitely not something one would see from a large press; rather it is the type of material that can only be found from small and independent operations.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Review: Between These Pages -- C A MacKenzie

Title: Between These Pages
Author: CA MacKenzie
Genre: Short Stories
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon 
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner

I read "Between These Pages" over a fairly extended period simply because life suddenly became very busy. Not all of the stories are good but enough are great to make up for it, making this a very readable collection. I started off not particularly engrossed, but by about half way through the stories became sharper. They more often ended with a satisfying twisted, or an ambiguity that was thought provoking rather than simply baffling.

Perhaps it is because the author ordered the stories by the age of the protagonists, and older characters naturally have more depth and pathos. Or perhaps because the elements of infidelity, troubled relationships and murder go from being repetitive to genuine themes as each story adds a new layer.

As high points I would point to stories with vivid images like the wife with a mannequin made in her image ("The Mannequin") or the woman sinking (is is she?) into a geothermal sinkhole ("Trapped in the Swallow"). Others may be somewhat shaky in execution but are intriguing in theme like a society where the road toll has gone from an unconscious sacrifice to a civic responsibility ("The Quota").

My favorite, strangely enough given my lifelong love of gothic horror, is the one completely nice and happy story in the collection. Although it appears near the beginning, "Away with the Fairies" feels like closes the loop of the repeated themes by showing how the older generation can help the younger steer them away from the tragedies that beset the characters in the other stories in the collection.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

REVIEW: Hegemony

Title: Hegemony
Author: Mark Kalina
Genre: SF
Price: $0.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve had a run of not-very-good SF novels to review, and that plus personal issues (I bought a new house) have led to some radio silence.  Well, I’m breaking that silence to talk about Mark Kalina’s novel Hegemony.  It’s part of a burgeoning sub-genre, namely, “space opera that tries to get the science right.”  I found it entertaining and engrossing.

In movie and TV science fiction, such as Battlestar Galatica and Star Wars, we see a lot of small, single-pilot combat vessels zipping about.  These are usually portrayed as running rings around larger and more ponderous vessels, while these small ships can be deadly to the big boys.  The setup bears more than a little resemblance to modern-day fighter carrier-based fighter pilots, and allows for lots of screen time for attractive pilots with good teeth.

Yet, in reality, modern carrier aviation works because even a slow military plane travels ten times as fast as a fast warship, and moves in a different medium.  Space ships all move in the same medium, and not only is there no reason for a small ship to be faster than a big one, the small ship will run out of fuel before the big guy does.  So space fighters don’t work.

Except when somebody makes a real effort to make them work, which is what we have in Mark Kalina’s case.  His space fighters draw power from the mother ship’s lasers, allowing greater acceleration and acting to enhance the mother ship’s weapons range.  Mark also addresses the problem of humans being able to withstand high G-forces by having humans upload into computers, and he invokes quantum theory to ensure a human can only be in one computer at a time.  If you die, we don’t just go to the backup – you’re dead.

This is all rather deftly explained in the opening chapters of Hegemony.  Humanity has long since fled Earth, and two multi-planet groups of humans, the Hegemony and the Coalition, are in a (currently cold) war with each other.  Into this mix steps Alekzandra “Zandy” Neel, interceptor pilot and former commoner.  Her ship gets tasked to investigate what looks like a bit of piracy, but the situation proves exceptionally more complex. 

I find myself liking a lot of Kalina’s world-building.  Zandy’s character is rather well-developed for the genre, and I found the worlds created fascinating.  In the Hegemony, the aristocrats (referred to by the Greek aristokrat√≠a) are permanently uploaded into computers, and download into biomechanical avatars.  This is not-well-regarded either by the common people of the Hegemony (including Zandy’s mother) nor the Coalition.  Actually, even Zandy’s a bit conflicted about the idea.

On the subject of world-building, one of my pet peeves in space opera is to map wet-water Navy traditions and ship types onto a space force.  Not so in Hegemony – Kalina rolls his own fleet.  But this is not just a world-builder’s novel.  Space opera is not known for character development, but there’s a fair bit of that for even the secondary characters.  Hegemony is a short book at 298 pages, but it packs a strong punch.  Highly recommended.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

REVIEW: Deep Blood

Title: Deep Blood
Genre: mystery
Price: $12.70 (paperback) / $7.69 (Kindle)
Publisher: Roundfire Books
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Deep Blood is Phillip Thompson’s third novel.  If his other two are anywhere near as good as this, I’ll have to add both to my list. 

Thompson, a Marine who served in the First Gulf War, was born and raised in a small town in Mississippi, and in Deep Blood he returns to those roots.  Deep Blood’s protagonist is Sam “Colt” Harper, a newly-elected sheriff in Lowndes County, Mississippi.  Colt was also a Marine, fought in Iraq and as sheriff he brought one of his Marine buddies in as deputy.  Oh, and Colt’s dad is the town’s drunk.

The story essentially starts with Colt finding a body in the local reservoir, that of Clifford Raines, a black teenager.  Figuring out who killed the boy is part of the story, as well as sorting out his personal life and family history.  Deep Blood is “southern-fried noir.”  It has that dark edge, with characters who most definitely aren’t saints, dealing with tough hands dealt them by life as best they can. 

I have to say that Thompson takes a dark view of race relationships, and his character’s language runs from salty to crude.  But then this is noir, not Disney, so one should expect that.  Having warned the sensitive reader, I have to say that I found Deep Blood a gripping read, and well worth the effort.  There’s a saying in vaudeville to “always leave your audience wanting more.”  Deep Blood is a short novel, and so I wanted more, but in a good way.

In short, for fans of hard-boiled crime novels, Deep Blood is a great read.  Highly recommended.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

REVIEW: Disconnect

Title: Disconnect: Book One of the Divided Worlds Trilogy
Author: Imran Siddiq
Genre: science fiction/YA
Price: Free (ebook)
Publisher: eBookPartnership.com
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Psyche

Disconnect is a very readable YA dystopian story where a space station that has drifted far from its primary mission has divided into two entrenched classes.  Our hero, Zach, a lowly scavenger accidentally makes contact with a girl from the world above, just before their whole society begins to change. 

The fast pace and high stakes make this a very enjoyable story and there is an interesting twist at the end.  However, to me, the world building has implausible elements, the characters sometimes lack depth, and Zach gets a lucky break on several dozen occasions. So I ultimately had trouble with how Zach fell into his central role in the brewing revolution.

A lot of readers are probably not going to get hung up on those elements like I was so--so if you are looking for any easy-reading adventure with elements of sci fi and romance, this is probably a good book to choose.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

REVIEW: Drifting Away

Title: Drifting Away
Author: Stefano Costantini
Genre: science fiction
Price: $6.20 (ebook) / $11.24 (paperback)
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1484988800
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I am the semi-official resident reviewer of science fiction, and as somebody who’s written two SF novels set on Mars, I confess to just a bit of an interest in Mars.  (I’m not addicted – I can quit any time.  Really.)  So, when Stefano Costantini’s query for a Mars-based novel hit my inbox, I accepted.  Alas, I am underwhelmed with Mr. Costantini’s novel Drifting Away.

From the back-cover blurb, the set-up is that in the late 23rd Century, Mars is an independent republic, yet one in which (at fair inconvenience) they forcibly synchronize their 24.5 hour day to Earth’s 24.0 hour clock.  (This means waking up in the “morning” when it’s full dark outside and going to bed at local sunrise.)  At any rate, the two planets are drifting away, so the Earth Association is attempting to combat this drift by running a youth exchange program.  Yet Martian kids are suddenly dying of measles, and their despondent mothers are killing themselves.  A pair of men decides to investigate.

Executed competently, this could have been an interesting book, and the twist ending could have worked nicely.  It was not executed competently.  Some of this is mechanical.  For example, Costantini doesn’t use quotes to separate dialog, rather dashes.  Speaking of dialog, most of the book’s dialog does not sound like real humans talking to one another; rather it is exposition or declaration.

Speaking of exposition, the first sixteen (albeit brief) chapters are nothing but exposition.  The world exposed therein is somewhat interesting, but still, sixteen (16) (!) chapters of exposition?  Nor does Costantini seem to have a good grasp on the logistics of living on Mars.  On his Mars, one can move from building to building merely by wearing a breathing mask.  On the real Mars, current surface pressure is way too low for that to happen.  Nor has Costantini heard of centrifugal force – his long-haul spaceliners are zero-gee the whole way. 

In short, I was underwhelmed by Drifting Away.


Sunday, June 23, 2013


Title: X
Editor: Matt Thompson
Genre: Mystery
Price: $0.99 (ebook)
Point of Sale: Amazon
 Reviewed by: Psyche

I am a bit surprised that I liked this book.  Objectively speaking the protagonist is a selfish loser.  The writing is full of semi-pretentious quirks like excessive footnotes. But I did; I did like this book. Sometimes it is just something ineffable about a book that does that.  Either that or I suck as reviewing.  One of those things.

There is something about how Cale is written that makes his desperation in dealing with his messed up impulses, his half-hearted marriage, and his one messed-up friendship strangely fascinating. This is certainly not a heart warming tale but it also resists being completely nihilistic.  It was somewhat reminiscent of The Losers by David Eddings, another book I liked even though it doesn't have anything I normally look for in a book. (It could use a touch more copy-editing.)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kiwi Society of Author Reinvents Square Wheel

Based on the radio interview I just listened to, the New Zealand Society of Authors seems to think they have invented the idea of a 'seal of approval' for self-published books.  (Specifically applying an "objective standard" in terms of quality).The spokesperson suggested forming an independent authors guild (that name, by the way, is already taken) should take over that "traditional gate-keeping service".

I predict that will go as well as it usually does when you:
1) Become a gate-keeper without actually being a publisher who determines quality based on some kind of real world functional standard (e.g. book sell well, book gets awards), and
2) combine collecting membership dues with tell some of those members that their work is not good enough.

Which is to say: badly.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

REVIEW: BASH by Mike Bartos

Title: BASH
Editor: Mike Bartos
Genre: Mystery
Price: $0.99 (ebook)
Publisher: XLIBRIS
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Psyche

This book creates an ensemble of characters connected by a psychiatric hospital that is mired in bureaucracy, weighted down by budget cuts and striving just to deliver basic care to their sometimes dangerous criminal patients. The story is constructed so you simply cannot hurry through it. You get to know everyone, for the most part nice, well-meaning, but flawed characters struggling through middle-age, professional crises and the demand for professional and personal duties, with a few villains sprinkled into the mix. I will admit that by halfway through I groaned a little as yet another character got introduced with a multi-page brief biographies of their life up until the point they enter the story. They are all marvelous character, but this is closing in on “too much of a good thing”.

At first I was surprised that the blurb discloses something that doesn’t happen until a third of the way through the book. But in retrospect you kind of need to know where this story is going in order to understand why you are strolling there through the lives of a dozen different people: patients, nurses, doctors, journalists and so on. I would say that having only the doctor in first person does not make sense to me as he first appears well into the story and Ash is much closer to being the protagonist of the piece. So the change in person seems a bit arbitrary, or like authorial intrusion.

While not every part of the book was to my tastes I have to give it 9/10 for sheer, pulled-together storytelling. I would, however, suggest that the cover doesn’t really match the book.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

About Kirkus Indies

I have seen a lot of bitching about Kirkus Indies reviews recently and given that I have a soap box, I am going to stand on it.  Here is what I have seen, and my take on it.

Kirkus is a legit review site that people are impressed by, right?
To some extent: yes.  But when it comes to their fee-charging site Kirkus Indies: no. In most cases all that a review from this site proves is that the author had $425 to waste. There are some exceptions where authors who know how to market took advantage of the perceived prestige of the Kirkus name with certain reading audiences.

Kirlkus indies will always trash your books because their reviewers are from rival publishers.
No.  You may have paid them money, but that was for the review, not what was in it.  The review will be honest, possibly scathingly so, possibly constructed specifically to prevent you from pulling out any positive phrases to use in your marketing efforts. If the reviewer hated your book, they just hated your book.  It happens.

Even trade publisher and best-selling authors pay for their Kirkus Review.
No, the don't.  They go to the main Kirkus site and submit their book many months before publication in the hope of getting a free review that will be placed on the main website, not the Indies online ghetto. This approach to getting a review is free.

Monday, June 10, 2013

REVIEW: For the Night is Dark

Title: For the Night is Dark
Editor: Ross Warren
Genre: Horror
Price: $5.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
ISBN: 0992170729
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

The great strength of this anthology is the way the stories have a strong sense of place and convincing, realistic characters. Across all of the stories it begins to feel like the bogey monster of this day and age is the chav (or whatever your regional term for youths from the ghetto is), or the under-privileged world they are forced to grow up in and the destructive role of abusive parenting. Of particular note: 21 Brooklands by Carole Johnstone which will probably stick in my mind for some time. This Darkness by John Claude Smith is also notable, it feels somewhat like a parable about the redemption that can only be found by hitting bottom.

There were some stories with notably original elements. God May Pity All Weak Hearts by Daniel I. Russel retells the Dr. Crippen murder. On a Midnight Black Chessie by Kevin Lucia finds horror in a very unlikely place. And How the Dark Bleeds by Jasper Bark seems to effortlessly create a whole mythology around the layered story of the protagonist within just a few short pages.

If there is any criticism I would make it is that many of the stories don't quite close conclusively and give a feeling of resolution. Exceptions being the under-stated pathos in the conclusion of the zombie story Darker with the Day by Scott Nicholson and the tightly plotted A Snitch in Time by Robert W Walker.

Overall this collection represents what a good horror anthology should be. A somewhat uneven groups of stories but none that are without merit, misogynist or mindlessly gratuitous--traits that hobble many other publishers in this genre. At the center of almost all of these stories there is a fate that is genuinely horrific if contemplated, and that resonates with the horrors that do or could exist in the real world.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Amazon Recommends...

I find it interesting that the top 5 Kindle books Amazon is recommending to me right now are from five difference genres: humor, romance, horror, sci fi, non-fiction. The next 5 continue: thriller, mystery, fantasy, romance, western.

I guess my browsing and buying has been pretty diverse?  Or are genre boundaries just not as important as they use to be when it comes to online shopping? Because these books do have a lot of common elements in style and tone, just not so much in terms of literal subject matter.

Friday, May 03, 2013

REVIEW: The Rebel Within

Title: The Rebel Within
Author: Lance Erlick
Genre: science fiction
Price: $5.99 (ebook) / $9.86 (paperback)
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
ISBN: 978-0-9889968-0-9
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The noted SF author John Scalzi has talked about the “flying snowman” on his blog.  This is based on his wife’s viewing of the classic cartoon “Frosty The Snowman.”  When our titular snowman suddenly discovers he can fly, well, that kicked the good Mrs. Scalzi right out of the story.  Unfortunately for Lance Erlick, author of The Rebel Within, my flying snowman came very early in his book.

The book is the story of Annabelle Scott, the adopted daughter of a state senator in Tenn-Tucky, a state formed after the new Federal Union decides to do away with all males.  Annabelle or Belle for short is slated for the Security Services, the various units that enforce the no-boys-allowed policy.  All of this is fine, as far as it goes.  Then Belle goes off to boot camp to become a mech-cop, the most elite police / military unit in Federal service.  And, after the first day of training, Belle goes home for the weekend! 

I’m sorry, but you simply do not, cannot, run a boot camp by letting your trainees go home every night!  It is critical to shaping the mind of the recruit that they not go home.  They need to eat, drink, sleep and breathe whatever training you’re attempting to indoctrinate them with.  They most especially do not have side jobs as police interns, nor do they have time to appear before the local zoning board and apply for a permit to open a restaurant.  (Yes, all of the above actually happens in The Rebel Within.)

So, my snowman got up, flew around, and had a wild fling with a butterfly.  Then, boot camp consisted almost entirely of having these sixteen-year-olds engage in gladiatorial combat with each other.  What’s entirely missing from Erlick’s boot camp is any training in basic combat techniques.  The “training” seems to consist entirely of throwing kids in a ring and letting them figure it out.  No, that didn’t work for me.  I encourage anybody interested in why boot camp is hard to visit this post, and most especially watch the linked video “hidden values of hard.”

So, I’m afraid I was unimpressed with The Rebel Within.  We’ve had a string of less-than-favorable reviews here at POD People.  Hopefully that string will be broken soon.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

REVIEW: Be Careful What You Wish For

Title: Be Careful What You Wish For
Author: R. K. Avery
Genre: thriller
Price: $5.99 (ebook) / $12.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Brighton Publishing LLC
ISBN: 978-1-936587-41-4
Point of Sale: Amazon Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

We get a lot of requests for book reviews at POD People – probably 20 in a slow week.  Considering we’re also volunteers and writers as well, we end up turning down many requests, simply as a matter of time.  But occasionally we can accept requests “over the transom” and that’s how Be Careful What You Wish For arrived at my doorstep. 

The book is the story of Bea Miller.  At the start of the story, she decides to add to her family of four boys by kidnapping a three-year-old girl, Maggie Taylor, off of the beach at a private lake in fictional Bunting Valley, North Dakota.  The first part of the book details the kidnapping, and about half-way through we transition into the mindset of Bea after she’s caught.

I have to start by saying that I found Avery’s small-town police force exceptionally unbelievable.  A six-person department with one detective is not going to handle a kidnapping all on their own, and a small-town department in North Dakota will be much more aware of related nearby crimes.  Ms. Avery, the author, punts a bit on this by having her lead police officer, Rich Butler, be a transfer in from Detroit, but still, small towns and small departments have long memories.  There were other questionable decisions as well.

I also found Ms. Avery’s command of point-of-view somewhat weak.  I couldn’t tell if the POV was supposed to be omniscient or just occasionally lapsed into it.  Her dialog was also rather tinny at times.  These are probably a lot of complaints for a 230 page book.

Yet despite all these complaints, I found Be Careful What You Wish For to be an interesting book.  Somehow, Ms. Avery managed to get very deeply into the mind of Bea Miller, an exceptionally twisted character, and portray that character in an interesting an occasionally sympathetic manner.  Yet, while doing so, the other characters were treated appropriately and in a multi-dimensional fashion.  In short, I found the book intriguing and interesting, if flawed in execution.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Review Scores

So, I just posted what was not exactly a glowing review.  So thought I would check out how positive or negative--in general--the POD review scores are.

And mostly they seem to skew pretty positive. 8/10 is the single most common rating, although I would note that is only one 9.5/10 and no 10/10s so far.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

REVIEW, Hidden Secrets, Whispered Lies

Title: Hidden Secrets, Whispered Lies
Author: Lisa McCourt Hollar
Genre: Poetry
Price: $2.99 (eBook)
Publisher: Kindle
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

The poetry in the collection is dark and emotive, but it depends heavily on over-used images such as vampires, darkness, chains and broken wings. The majority of the poems also have the same subject: a  female in love with the wrong guy.

Some of the formatting does not seem mindful to me. Like every line starting with a capital letter, most likely because MSWord does this automatically? Use of the possessive apostrophe and other capitalization seems erratic.

I might have been able to recommend this, at least during period where it is free, except that this collection alternates dizzyingly between reveling in subjects like self-mutilatory cutting and necrophilia, and shrill preaching against drug use and abortion. This strange brand of 'gothic moralising' made reading this short book actually fairly unpleasant for me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It isn't me, it's you....

I was reading the Kindle preview of Jack Mitchell's book "99 Blogging TRips" when I came across the a very efficient interest killer in the introduction. 

I mean, I have read some doozy introductions by authors, from explanations that the author is a prophet of God to assertions that they (as a fan fic writer) know the characters far better than the person who created them.

And then there is this:

"...there are still a review 'hate' reviews. But guess what? That's okay, because those people weren't right for the book."

He goes on to quote and rebut and criticize some specific Amazon reviews, in the book. So the first thing this book says to me is "if this book doesn't work for you, it is because you suck".


I was checking the book out because the author is actively soliciting reviews, but somehow I think I will be passing on this one.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review of Pinned: A Kentucky True Crime Book by Charles W. Massie


Product Details

Title: Pinned: A Kentucky True Crime
Author: Charles W. Massie
Genre: Non-Fiction/ True Crime
Price: $8.99 (eBook) / $ 19.95 Paperback
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Reviewed by: Erica Moulton

I knew it had to happen eventually.  My first negative review.  I was really excited about this book, partly because of it being true crime and partly because of the subject being from upstate New York like myself.  It made it that much more disappointing that I really disliked this novel.

The author tells a very jaded tale of being scorned by a woman who he met on the internet.  Who he moved in with pretty much as soon as they met in person.  Neither party had a steady source of income or employment, both sound a bit selfish and they spent more time having sex than getting to know one another.  Odd that this relationship failed. 

The true crime aspect of the book stems from a possession of marijuana charge.  Of course, he is completely innocent and must have been set up by the woman who rejected him and ended up with his friend.  He wrote an entire book trying to shine a negative light on her, an innocent light on himself and point fingers at her for murder, for theft, for setting him up.  He claims the local police are in bed with her and helped set him up. 

The book is long (386 pages) but not filled with quality content.  A lot of the material should have been removed as it does not add to the storyline.  In one chapter, he prepares a spaghetti dinner and goes into detail about how he prepared it.  Right down to opening up a jar of Ragu sauce and what flavor it was.  It feels jumbled and unorganized.  He rehashes the same points several times throughout the book. 

There are several sex scenes in the book, which I’m not opposed to.  What I am opposed to is several sex scenes which are pretty much the same scene/actions over and over.  Of course, the scenes are wrote to suggest the two are rock stars in the bedroom with unending stamina.  Yawn. 

If you are very bitter about the loss of a love and feel that you have been set up by this person, then you may find some comfort in knowing you are not alone by reading this.  I, however, did not enjoy this book at all.  If I did not select this book to review and would have been reading as a personal selection, I doubt I would have finished it.  I do know for sure that in the event I ever find myself divorced, after reading this book I doubt I will ever place an online dating ad.  In the future, I will be sure that True Crime means more than just a possession charge as well.

I am giving a rating of 2/10 only because the author did take the time to write out such a lengthy book. 

Rating: 2/10