Thursday, October 20, 2016

Love Give Us One Death by Jeff P. Jones

In the end the cover is well worn.
Love Give Us One Death is a mix of fact and fiction. This story of Bonnie and Clyde is an intentionally distorted account of real events. Jeff P. Jones has sprinkled in Bonnie's poetry as well witness retellings- real and imagined.

The story was slow for the first half. It took a long time for me to read because I didn't feel the momentum of the story. It was very dense and the abstract writing made it a little confusing. The timeline of events jumped around. Sometimes the author's prose got in the way of his storytelling. But the second half picked up and I couldn't put it down. It wasn't until this point that I realized the poetic nature of the book.

There's sadness in Love Give Us One Death. It makes the readers wonder what they did it all for as there's no glamour like in the stories told by the newspapers of the time.

Overall it was a good experience. I enjoyed the unique style of fiction.

"The longstanding fears fell away, and though she wasn't ready to be taken, death took her all the same."

 Love Give Us One Death releases October 25th.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Class of '59 by John A. Heldt

Class of '59 is the newest time-travel romance from John A. Heldt, author of Indiana Belle. Continuing with the same time-hopping scenario as his previous books, Heldt tells the story of Mark who accidentally lands in 2017. There he meets Mary Beth and her sister Piper who he brings back to his own time. Piper is ecstatic to experience high school in 1959. Mary Beth is content to spend time with her charming time-traveling companion Mark.

I didn't love this installment of the American Journey series as much as I did Indiana Belle. I liked that it was a light read, but felt it was missing some of the depth of the previous book. The romance between Mary Beth and Mark was sweet but moved slowly. Some mundane details and conversations could have been cut.

However, the time-travel element kept me hooked on the story. Class of '59 has all the elements of a 1950s teen romp: poodle skirts, malt shops and drag races. Their exploration of the '50s was fun. Mary Beth and Piper even have an encounter with an Old Hollywood celebrity.  The foursome made a mistake early on that was sure to catch up with them. This lead to a fast-paced and action-packed conclusion.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

On Handling Bad Reviews

One of the hot topics among book reviewers right now is poor behavior from authors regarding bad reviews. There are very few book bloggers out there who enjoy giving bad reviews and so far I haven't met any of them. But sometimes it can't be helped. Reviewers are approached by authors seeking reviews to market their books and bump their ratings. The reviewers give their time to read and then write at no charge to these authors. And I can tell you that, as of this post, I have gotten fewer than a half-dozen thank-yous from the authors whose books I've reviewed. Most don't give me a second thought once their review is posted. So all is well when the review is favorable. 

Unfortunately, there have been a few authors who have retaliated against their reviewers for posting negative reviews. I haven't been on the receiving end of this behavior yet, but I suspect that in the future I might be. 

People, I'm an author, too. Getting reviews is hard. Getting bad reviews hurts. But if you got into this thankless business without a thick skin, then you better hang up your typewriter ASAP because it's not going to get easier. Publishing is a scary thing. You're putting your soul on paper (or whatever) and tossing it out into the world for everyone to see. Some people won't like your book. Some people didn't like Harry Potter (me) and that book seems to be doing fine. Every review, even the bad ones, is a chance to further develop your craft. Even bad feedback is constructive. Sometimes ridiculous reviews can even help sell your book.
Below is my response to a review of my book last year. Note that I didn't respond directly to the reviewer. Never, I repeat NEVER do that unless it's to say thanks. You'll only end up looking childish and insecure. This response was posted on my author blog as part of sharing my publishing journey with my readers. You can read the original review here.

So, some may have noticed that I recently received a scathing review for Here with Me Now on Goodreads. As a writer and a former dancer who once tried acting (and failed miserably) and did a long stint in outbound telemarketing, I've developed a very thick skin. Of course a bad review makes my flesh burn for a minute, but then I look at it reasonably.

The positive side of this woman's review is that she didn't say she hated the book because of poor writing or bad pacing or any of those mechanics that would really embarrass me as a writer. The reviewer hated the story. Well, you can't argue an opinion of a story. Specifically, she hated that there's a moment where Mallory's male classmate slaps her across the face. Sorry, but it's a fact of life. Sometimes boys hit girls. Then she hated that the mom was relieved that her daughter wasn't a lesbian. Again, plenty of moms throughout history have uttered those same words. Neither of those scenes in the book are condoning violence or intolerance. Neither of those are statements on how the world should be. They're simply demonstrating the experiences of this particular teenage girl. Here with Me Now is a slice-of-life novel, not an episode of Full House. If you're looking for a sugar-coated account of high school, might I suggest Sweet Valley High or The Baby-sitters Club?

Then the reviewer goes on to complain that Mallory was obsessive and annoying and out of touch with reality. Well, at least she got the point of the story even if she didn't like it. I wrote this novel in the first-person voice of an irrational teenage girl. She doesn't have the outside narration to explain her ridiculous thoughts or the experience of the reader to tell her she's out of her mind. She's a girl and this is how some girls think. Not all girls, but some. This one. I mean, honestly, if I'd wanted to write about a level-headed teenager who thinks clearly and makes the right decisions there would have been no reason to write anything at all. But there's no reason to be so angry about it.

So, no. I'm not upset about getting a bad review. I actually appreciate the reviewer's assistance in summing up the message of the story: "...this is why teenagers can not make consenting decisions related to having sex with [an] adult. They do not realize the consequences!" It seems like she fully understood what I was trying to say. Maybe I should have hired her to write my tag line.

Anyway, bring on the reviews. I'm up for it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Meat Ladder to Mars by Eugenio Negro

Zosime, once an important crewmember at the doomed sky ladder, is now under one of the world’s largest landfills, loading an antiquated space shuttle with unprotected livestock. Suddenly the world-wandering heroine is given the choice to follow her heart and heal her family or follow orders.
Using the gentri-fi genre, Eugenio Negro presents the moment before colonization of the planet Mars. Negro’s controversial story examines the economic and cultural forces at work in the Mars mission, and asks: is space exploitation the dream of all humankind?

The Gist:
It's a book about a government worker concerned with the welfare of some mistreated pigs, though she's not supposed to be.

The Good:
The writing is beautiful and organic, but not frivolous. The writer's words are dedicated to action more than scenery. The political statement in Meat Ladder to Mars is clear. I also loved the melding of cultures and Zosime's interaction with her coworkers.

The Bad:
Without quotes or breaks the dialogue was hard to follow, although I enjoyed the realness of each character's distinct voice. Also, the story in the middle became monotonous and almost lost me.

The Conclusion: 
Meat Ladder to Mars is good for readers who enjoy the political genre. It's still a decent story even if you don't pick up on that statement.

Once more a few earthlings clever and greedy enough to abandon their fellow earthlings would sail in a gourd of ashes up over the rocketburnt refuse of Olusosun, above all the Earth's landfills, across the infinite lifeless sea beyond, and they'd do it using nothing but math and explosive chemicals.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Note on Children's Books

I love reviewing children's books. My kids love that we review them together. They get excited when a new one comes in the mail. They voice their opinions and I share them with my readers. Folks, I DO NOT READ MY KIDS BEDTIME STORIES FROM MY KINDLE. Why? Because it's black and white. Because it's small. Because I can't hold it between the three of us and experience the pictures that go with the story. And because they can't take my Kindle to bed with them and gaze at the pretty pages and remember the story until they drift off to dreamland. So please stop offering review copies of children's stories on Kindle or on PDF. Even if it sounds great, I will automatically delete the request. Sorry. I understand that hard copies cost money. Remember, I'm an author, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open for Submissions

Nevermind the Furthermore is again accepting submissions. Please review the guidelines page thoroughly before sending your request.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom by Jennifer McCoy Blaske

I had expected something completely different from this book. I thought I'd just be reading about weddings and piano playing. But Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom was actually about perusing a dream while juggling the reality of mom life. Any mom can relate to that. I mean, normal moms, not those super moms who have it all under control and their dream career to boot.

At times I thought the author had been peeking into my life. I have two kinda small kids. The main character Heather has two kinda small kids. I agonize over taking my kids in public. Heather agonizes over taking her kids in public--with good reason. The experiences Heather has in this story mirror my own and probably those of most moms.

As she chases her dream of playing piano for happy brides, things go less than smoothly. Things go wrong. She wants to give up. Jennifer McCoy Blaske's novel isn't predictable at all. I was 80% into the book and still had no clue how it would end.  Because it was real.

Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom is a fast read. It's only 142 pages and is fast-paced. Because the last book I read was long and heavy, I appreciated the lightness of this one. I'm looking forward to reading books from this author in the future.