Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: Pandemic: A Novel by Scott Sigler

Title: Pandemic: A Novel (Infected #3)
Author: Scott Sigler
Publisher: Crown Publishing
ISBN: 0307408973
Release Date: 1/21/2013

There's a reason that Siglerites are such die-hard fans. It's because our FDO (that's "Future Dark Overlord" for those new to Sigler's fandom) knows what we want and tries to deliver it to us as best as he possibly can. Sigler has worked on quite a few trilogies so far and as far as his "mainstream" stuff goes, this is the first official series ender we've received. (Not sure if MVP ended his GFL series of not- I've fallen behind with those books.) I had to admit that I was a little nervous about whether or not this book would really live up to all of the rather lofty expectations I had for it and whether or not I'd be able to get over the distinct lack of Perry Dawsey as a main character- after all, he did die in a gloriously violent death that would eliminate any chances of him returning as a character.

The good news is that while you'll definitely miss Dawsey as a main character, the book does grab your attention and hold it until the finish. So even though you'll still miss Scary Perry, there's enough here to where this won't bother you as much. (Although he is in this book in a fashion.)

This is a rather weighty book, as my ARC copy was 500+ pages long. I ended up skipping a few hours of studying for finals to get into this book, which proved to be pretty addicting. It's told from the viewpoints of several different people- Margaret, Clarence, Murray, and new characters such as Cooper and Steve. No spoilers on what roles the two new guys play in this novel, but they're fairly major and some of the things that Cooper has to do in order to survive are pretty grim.

What made this so much fun for me was that Sigler made so much of it seem believable. Don't get me wrong- this is solidly fiction, but mixing in real life elements such as human biology, medical experiments, and other such things makes this a little more eerie than if he hadn't used them. For example, Sigler uses the idea of human paranoia over any large government movement to great effect. When the US government tries to do something to stem the impending Infected tides, its met with widespread criticism from people who assume that the government is trying to control them- something that I can genuinely imagine people doing. It made for a nice touch that I really appreciated.

I can't wait for this to get the podcast treatment and it's making me really anticipate future followups to some of Sigler's other works such as Nocturnal or Ancestor. If you liked Sigler's other works in the Infected trilogy at all, buy it. I'd even go so far as to say that if you like a good science fiction-ish read, that you just plunk down the cash to get all three. If you're hesitant, Sigler does offer free podcast versions of the previous two books (Infected and Contagious), but don't be surprised if you end up purchasing this novel as a result of that.

5/5 stars

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine)

Monday, November 18, 2013

"The Rise of the E-Book Jerk"

I read about this via Dear Author initially, so credit to them for the story.

The basic gist is that there was an article in Paste Magazine about people returning e-books on Amazon, who has a 7 day return policy. Some authors only have a few returns while others have quite a bit- 10% of their sales. The article lists a bunch of people who believe that many of these returners are reading the book and then asking for their money back.

DA brought up a good point: many people aren't able to immediately read the books for whatever reason, so a return could happen days after the initial purchase. I have to add this tidbit: some people return e-books because the title was so awful that they didn't want to finish it or keep it on their reader. Sometimes people do it because a book is filled with so many visible errors that they can't bring themselves to read it and return it more to prove a point that someone shouldn't have to pay for a book where the author couldn't or wouldn't edit out the grammatical and spelling errors.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of returning books (print or e-book) if you've read them. I don't think I've returned a book for any reason other than already owning it or getting the wrong one as a gift. I do think that there's a bit of an issue with the idea of getting a book and returning it later just so you could purchase another book down the road. Reducing or eliminating the amount of time one can get a refund would help, but I think that many authors would see reduced sales in general. Many of the people who do this purely as a way to get "freebies" aren't usually the type that want to spend money in general.

Further reading:
*Dear Author
*Paste Magazine

Friday, November 15, 2013

One butterbeer frappuccino, please

As many of you are already aware, recently it was "announced" that Starbucks was offering Butterbeer lattes and frappuccinos. Sorta. It's part of their "secret menu" that isn't really secret as much as it's one of many drinks that you can order as long as you remember the recipe for it when you go up to order.

(My reaction upon reading about this.)

I haven't had the ability to try this yet, but next time I wander into a Starbucks I'll have to give this a try. I'll probably go for the cold version, as the hot one sounds a little too sweet for my tastes. I'll never get to try the "official" version since I'm allergic to milk and can't have anything with a very heavy cream base, but I'll try the soy milk equivalent thereof.

(Still an accurate depiction.)

If you want to try this out, make sure to do it during the holiday season, as not every Starbucks offers toffee nut syrup year-round.

So without much more ado, on with the recipes!

(Why yes I have been watching Adventure Time lately!)

 Cold recipe:

  • Creme frappuccino base with whole milk (this is supposedly for the consistency more than flavor)
  • 3 pumps caramel syrup
  • 3 pumps toffee nut syrup
  • Top with caramel syrup and whipped cream
Hot recipe:

  • Whole milk steamer
  • Add caramel syrup (2 for tall, 3 for grande, 4 for venti)
  • Add toffee nut syrup (2 for tall, 3 for grande, 4 for venti)
  • Add cinnamon dolce syrup (2 for tall, 3 for grande, 4 for venti)
  • Whipped cream and salted caramel bits on top
  • Optional: Add a shot of espresso (2 for a grande or venti)

So there you have it. According to a Syracuse reporter, this was overly sweet and didn't taste like what she was expecting it to.

(Not really related, but figured why not? Although it's probably pronounced "Te-AH-tAH-may" in some circles.)

Further reading:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fifty Shades of Herpes

So recently two Belgian professors decided that they would run tests on the ten most popular books at their local library. What type of tests? Bacteriology and toxicology, essentially meaning that they looked at whether or not one or more of the people handling the books were on something or had a disease or issue that could be picked up with testing.

Why do it? Because science.

(Quite possibly my favorite picture ever of Herbert West, you should check out the original artist here)

Of course one of the most popular books was Fifty Shades of Grey because hey- sex is popular, especially when you can get it in a format that's socially acceptable.

What did they find? All of the books tested positive for enough cocaine to potentially have someone test positive on a drug test. However FSoG had that little something extra:


Yep. These books had herpes on them. Not enough to where you could actually contract it, but enough to where it showed up. It's entirely possible that the herpes on them were of the cold sore variety. Not every person with herpes has it below the waist, after all, and it's entirely reasonable to think that someone could have been touching their face and passing herpes on.

(Like this, actually)

Of course it's far more funny to think that it's the result of someone trying to do the kitkat shuffle while reading their library rented erotica. Gross, but funny. Next time I check a book out from the library, it might go through this process:

Further reading:

*Professors Test Fifty Shades of Grey Library Book, Find It Has Traces of Herpes

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This exists: Awful library books

Most of you probably already know this site. I recently came across it in my search for something funny to laugh at inbetween studying bouts. The website is called "Awful Library Books" and it's awesome. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Seriously, where is the market out there for satanic ritual abuse themed books? This is so weirdly specific that I can't help but laugh. What's funnier is that the School Library Journal actually reviewed this one. If you're curious about what the plot is, it's about a kid that goes to a daycare where she and other kids are abused in various different ways because their daycare workers are Satan worshippers. I'm waiting for the sequel: Let's Do Something Else: A child's book about getting abused by Elvis fanatics. I mean, the sky's the limit for how many very specific "abused by _____" books we can churn out. 

This one tickled my funny bone because of some of the claims: dogs eating food that humans could be eating? Tons of poop in the streets? I like to think that Iris wrote this while watching Lassie and clutching her pearls close to her chest. 

There is a market for animal autopsy books. After all, veterinary students have to start somewhere. I remember being interested in the field when I was about 7-8, an interest that stopped right about the time that one of my pets got hit by a car and almost all of the skin was ripped off its hindquarters. That was the moment I realized that it wasn't all giving cats medicine in droppers and telling its owner how cute their dog was. In any case, this book tries to make autopsy approachable for 10 year olds. How do they do that? By dissecting a teddy bear on the cover. The images within are a little more tame and actually pretty informative, but the horror of its cover will probably still cause someone's kid to get a nightmare or two. 

"Oh the lights still on, we're dancing/Yeah the floor is shaking/ In this disco heaven" For some reason I see Lady Gaga owning this book. This is actually pretty cool for the time period. It's kind of the equivalent of somebody's kid getting to have well, Lady Gaga played at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah rather than a more somber "punch and pie in the rec room with Auntie Bea" affair. 

Somewhere out there, there's likely nun porn with this title. It doesn't matter what the book is about, odds are that most of you looked at this title with today's mentality and snickered.

I actually remember when this one came out. The idea of putting out a children's book that deals with weight loss for kids is actually a fairly good idea. When you see kids walking around that are already clinically obese, that's an issue that goes beyond baby fat. There is a need for books that delicately approach the subject matter and point out healthy ways for kids to change their lifestyles in a way that's on their level. This isn't that book. No, from what I've seen of this book out there the book approaches this pretty poorly. Where it fails the most is that it treats weight loss as a magical cure for every problem out there. Maggie is teased pretty badly, but magically all of the bullying stops once she starts losing all the weight.  Not only that, but once the weight is gone Maggie becomes a star athlete and cures cancer. Basically, kids will be given this unrealistic expectation that everything gets better afterwards. It tries really hard, it ultimately falls short.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Battle of 9.99

Here's another interesting tidbit for all of you"

Publishers Weekly has also published the book The Battle of 9.99, a book about the now infamous price setting at Amazon. I know that some of you remember this. Some might even remember getting into an argument on either side. For those who don't immediately remember, here's the story in a nutshell:

Amazon wanted to set their ebook prices at $9.99 to entice readers to their then still newborn Kindle e-book reader. It meant that they were taking a deep price cut in their profits, but they were really pushing for these readers to succeed since let's face it: previous attempts by other companies to market e-readers had failed spectacularly. This didn't sit well with many of the big publishers, who threatened to pull their e-book contracts with Amazon if they didn't reset the prices to what the publisher specifically wanted. Now the messed up part is that the publishers supposedly didn't lose any money coming in, Amazon did. However according to this book, what really scared the pants off of the publishers was really the idea that Amazon would undermine the industry.

As many know, this sparked widespread condemnation of first Amazon (with people assuming that they changed it voluntarily) and then later the publishers themselves. People petitioned, posted negative reviews, and some even railed against the authors, many of whom were actually for the lower price setting. This price war brought a lot of attention to the ebook world and to the idea of ebook prices in general, regardless of how you stood on the matter.

So now Publishers Weekly has put out a 58 page book about the whole shebang from the viewpoint of Andrew Albanese. It's going for $1.99 on Amazon, if anyone's interested. I might give in and buy it myself so I can give it a whirl.

Further Reading:
*'The Battle of $9.99,' a PW Original E-book
*Amazon page
*ebooks: Apple is Guilty in The Battle of the $9.99

Awesome news! Macmillan to Offer Entire E-book Backlist to Libraries

I just saw this on Publishers Weekly and had to comment.

Apparently Macmillan is making about 11,000 books available to libraries, which is pretty spiffy. Ever since college started to royally kick my butt and demolish most of my spare time I've mostly spent my time listening to audiobooks, but getting more e-books is always a good thing. I can vouch that there is nothing more frustrating than trying to download a certain book and finding that the library doesn't have the ebook for that specific book. Sometimes they'll be part of series, which will really get someone flustered.

This is ebook only, but this is pretty great news that makes me fairly optimistic about this opening the door for more audiobooks to hit the library OverDrive systems. That's still a pretty underserved portion of the online library market where you have maybe about one audiobook to every ten e-books, but this gives me hope that eventually more publishers will make their audiobook catalogues more available.

Now this doesn't guarantee that your library will necessarily option the books for distribution, but it does mean that it makes it more likely that it'll happen. Of course you could look at this as another step towards libraries becoming obsolete (a reason why I'm going to get my library degree in information systems), but it's something that will greatly benefit a lot of people who have internet access but can't immediately access a library for whatever reason. (Distance, illness, disability, etc)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mental Health: Not always a matter of will

A few days ago an author posted a tweet. This isn't really news, as many authors post tweets every day. This, however, was one that I kind of felt was harmful in several ways.

The post in question was from global bestselling author Laurell K Hamilton on the subject of mental illness and while I don't think she meant any true ill will, it's something that made me more than a little mad.
The gist of the tweet was that Hamilton was talking about her own battle with mental illness and how she felt like she was taking charge of the situation. However at the same time the tweet sends off a dangerous message: that what happens in the course of mental illness is all down to choice.

Don't get me wrong. To a degree choice does factor into how your mental illness unfolds. If someone knows that they are suffering from a mental illness, has the ability to access mental health care, and chooses to do so, then they are influencing their future. The same goes for someone in this situation who chooses not to get help.

However mental illness isn't as easy as getting help and telling yourself that you won't do something harmful. It doesn't work that way. If it did, then every clinic out there would have people who walk in and out of the doctor's office in perfect mental health.

Sometimes a person can have depression that sinks in so heavily that they can't stop themselves from doing or thinking things that are detrimental to themselves and the people around them. Even if a portion of their brain is screaming out that picking up that shotgun is not the answer, their mental illness is screaming at them even louder and makes it impossible for that part of their mind to be heard.

Sometimes people can really, really want to break a cycle of mental illness but have no access to health care. Yes, yes. I know that some will say that many places have free or nearly free health facilities or suicide hotline numbers to call to talk to people. Not everyone has the ability to access those and for some, the free or nearly free alternatives aren't enough. Despite this being a bright shiny world where people are supposed to have more access to health care options and support groups than ever before, not everyone has equal access to these things.

And sometimes a person's culture, environment, or upbringing can make an equally huge difference. Some people grow up being told that seeking a psychiatrist or therapist means that you're completely and utterly broken, that there's something so wrong with you that you deserve to be locked away from humanity. There was and in many places, still is a huge stigma associated with seeking professional help. Some cultures and religions still see this kind of therapy as "bad".

The problem with all of this, and I'm running into a rant here, is that it's not as easy as saying that someone's will will make all the difference in how their mental health unfolds. A person can have access to great health care, have a huge support network, and a wonderfully rational mind full of common sense... yet still be unable to will themselves healthy. For Hamilton to essentially make it seem like mental health is all about telling yourself you won't fail is a hugely dangerous message.

It tells people that if their minds are telling them that they're worthless, that they aren't "trying hard enough to be happy". Hyperbole and a Half did an excellent blog on how depression isn't always easily solved by you trying to will yourself into a happy state. A person can know that their line of thinking isn't "right" or "logical" and try so damn hard to turn everything around... yet it doesn't work. For someone to say that "Force of will makes the difference" can make people feel like they're even more useless and that they aren't doing things right.

The problem is that there's no right way to do things. Sometimes someone can go into things with an extremely strong will and the mindset that they will beat their depression... yet still end up losing the battle.

How do I know this?

A few years ago my uncle shot himself. He'd been battling depression for years and had a mind that was unbelievable. My uncle had an amazingly large circle of friends, family, and students. He made a huge impact on the people around him to where we couldn't have all of his mourners in the funeral home. We still have people stop by my grandparents' house on the anniversary of his death. My uncle was far from perfect, but he was what people call "a damn good person".

But he still shot himself. And yes, he reached out to people around him for help. But sometimes none of that is enough. Sometimes someone can get so overwhelmed with their depression and mental problems that all of the ideas of willpower, support networks, and professional help get washed away in the moment. Sometimes people can have that brief moment where they can call for help. Sometimes they have people around them that can call for help. But sometimes they don't. My uncle fought for a long time and he was one of thousands of people who lose the fight against depression every year.

Don't get me wrong. A mindset can have an impact on someone's mental health. It's just that so often people tend to assume that someone can will themselves out of depression. Sometimes they can. But not everyone. That's why it's very dangerous to make blanket statements like the one Hamilton did.

If she was some nobody then this might not be so bad, but she's someone with a large audience and her words get read by a lot of people. I don't think her intent was to make it sound like someone can will themselves better and that if they fail then it's because they "didn't try hard enough", but that's what it comes across like.

I haven't posted in a really long time due to school, but Hamilton's tweet pissed me off royally and I had to write something about it.

Further reading:

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression
*Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part 2

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark

Title: The Angel Stone (Fairwick Trilogy Book 3)
Author: Juliet Dark
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 9/3/2013

You know those books, the ones that you eagerly await with baited breath? The ones that when you get them, you want to go run around the block screaming at the top of your lungs while holding your literary prize over your head like the Olympic Torch? This was one of those books and I was excited when I was approved for a copy. I can't say that this book really met those expectations, which were admittedly a little high.

For Callie McFay, a half-witch/half-fey professor of folklore and Gothic literature, the fight to save the enchanted town of Fairwick, New York, is far from over. After a hostile takeover by the Grove—a sinister group of witches and their cohorts—many of the local fey have been banished or killed, including Callie’s one true love. And in place of the spirit of tolerance and harmony, the new administration at Fairwick College has fostered an air of danger and distrust. 

With her unique magical abilities, Callie is the only one who can rescue her friends from exile and restore order to the school—a task that requires her to find the Angel Stone, a legendary talisman of immense power. Propelled on an extraordinary quest back to seventeenth-century Scotland, Callie risks her life to obtain the stone. Yet when she encounters a sexy incarnation of her lost love, she finds the greater risk is to her heart. As the fate of Fairwick hangs in the balance, Callie must make a wrenching choice: reclaim a chance for eternal passion or save everything she holds dear.

The story in this book didn't start off terribly. To the contrary, this actually wasn't half bad to start and I kept going through the pages at a feverish pace. There was still that element of magic that kept me mesmerized despite having some misgivings over how the book's prose felt in relation to its subject matter. The story so far has been fairly dark and the writing style felt slightly unsuited, as it felt pretty light and airy at times. That didn't overly bother me until it came time for Callie to travel back in time.

And that's about where the magic seemed to turn off for me as the reader.

The passages in the past aren't awful, but they seemed to lack the spark that the earlier pages of Angel Stone held. They almost felt a little forced and obligatory at times, especially when long stretches would pass and it just felt like things were going on forever. This kind of made this part of the story sag, which was unfortunate when you consider that once the story tries to return to its former pacing and setting, the plot rushes far too quickly and Dark tries to cram all of these various plot elements together and resolve them in the span of a few pages.

It just doesn't work and for people who were previously complaining that Dark tries too hard to mash too many plots into one area and ends up ping-ponging all over the place as a result, this will be a major issue. Some of the plot resolution just seems a little false, when you consider that some of these were built up to be awfully impossible to beat earlier in the book and they're resolved in about a page or so. It just rings a little hollow and I can't help but feel that while Dark is amazing at setting up a story and a great world, she doesn't seem to really have a handle on the endings. I can't help but feel that if maybe, just maybe she'd cut down on the long part in the middle about traveling to the past and/or used that to extend the ending and write it out a little more rather than resolving everything in about 30 pages, the book would have been that much stronger for it.

I liked the book for the most part, but ultimately I can't give this much more than three stars. This was a fizzle of an ending as opposed to the huge bang that I was hoping for. It's like expecting a Cherry Coke and someone gives you a Diet Pepsi. You might like Diet Pepsi, but it wasn't what you were expecting your server to supply. If you're eagerly awaiting the final book then I wouldn't say that you should avoid this book or only get it from the library. I would say that you should lower your expectations, as this doesn't really hold up to Demon Lover or Water Witch. I'd still check out Dark's other works, but with a little hesitation.

Three out of Five Stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley and Ballentine Books)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amazon to launch fanfiction platform

Fan fic on the kindle? Critics of the idea of "pulled to publish" fanfiction will probably have a lot to say about this.

Recently Amazon announced that they're opening up a new publishing platform Kindle Worlds. The platform would enable fanfiction authors to publish their works for a profit without having to actually change anything in the works themselves, supposedly. All with the approval of the publisher/company that owns the rights to the books or shows in question. Of course the author won't get the lion's share of the money charged per book. Authors of longer works (10,000+ words) will receive 35% of the price for their books while ones who have written less than 10,000 words will only get 20%. According to Entertainment Weekly, the pricing will be between 99 cents and $3.99.

So far only one company has decided to play ball with this new format, Warner Bros, and only for three very  specific book turned television show series: Gossip Girls, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. This limits the amount of fanfiction that can be published, as not everyone wants to write fanfiction for these shows, but it'd be interesting to see if any other companies would come aboard if this does well.

There isn't a set time as to when this will drop, but I'm of mixed emotions about this. There's no doubt that some fanfiction authors work very, very hard at what they do and put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their specific works stick to canon or if not, would read as believable to their audience. Part of me thinks that there's nothing wrong with rewarding them by giving them money in a format that has the approval of the official copyright holders.

Then again, part of me is a little antsy about this because for some reason this just seems a little well, wrong. One of the core things about fanfiction is that it's written by fans, for fans for free. Technically there's nothing against the law about charging for fanfiction if the publisher has signed up for fanfics to specifically be published for profit. I can't even say anything about the very real inevitability about someone putting out a work that's not even worth ten cents, because we already get this with both self-publishing and the mainstream publishing world.

So I can't quite put my finger on why this bothers me so much. Maybe there's just a worry about this going from someone exploring their love for a show/book/movie to where it turns solely into something they're doing for profit. Or maybe I'm just afraid that people will only publish fanfiction and not create their own worlds. Both are possibilities, but the second has always been a fear for fanfiction and the first is something that goes on in the publishing world already. How many times have we seen authors pump out garbage because they know it'd be a guaranteed sell because of name recognition? Neither are really feasible reasons to not publish fanfiction for profit because that'd be punishing a lot of authors who either aren't interested in putting out non-fanfiction work and/or have no interest in actually getting rich-rich off their work. (But don't mind getting a little money.)

Or perhaps I'm afraid that this might be a way for publishers and companies to start actively cracking down on fanfiction authors. I haven't heard of any whisper of censorship for the works, but it's a possibility. It's well within a publisher's right to request that certain things not be published under their banner, although I will admit that I doubt that they'd refuse to publish things such as slash fanfiction. I can't even say that the publishers can now go after people who aren't publishing under their banner, because that would probably take more money and time than it'd be worth- although it'd be interesting to see if Warner Bros would seek for to remove fanfiction for the three shows mentioned above.

I guess all we can do is just wait and see.

Further Reading:
*Amazon to launch fanfiction platform (Entertainment Weekly)
*Amazon to allow e-book fan fiction sales in US (BBC)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

10 Biggest Book Adaptation Flops

I can't help but repost this. Publishers Weekly recently did a list of the biggest flops out there when it came to film adaptations of books. And yes, Battlefield Earth was on there. That was actually my litmus test. Travolta took what was a classic of science-fiction dystopian novels (at least in my opinion), took it home, got it drunk, filmed himself pulling a Deliverance on the book, and then left its beaten and half-dead body in a back alley. Then he subjected the movie-going public to whatever was left of the book and the film he got the night before. Yeah. Not a fan of the movie. I might have liked it more if I hadn't read the book almost religiously as a teen, I might have been a little more forgiving.

In any case, here are the ten biggest book adaptation flops per Publishers Weekly:

10. John Carter
9. Atlas Shrugged I, II, (and probably III)
8. Bonfire of the Vanities
7. Around the World in 80 Days
6. The Scarlet Letter (Demi Moore's version)
5. All the King's Men
4. Sphere
3. Gods and Generals
2. Pinnochio
1. Battlefield Earth

Further reading:

*10 Biggest Book Adaptation Flops

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book review: The Shift by Fiona Dodwell

Title: The Shift
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Release Date: 05/10/2013
ISBN: 1771150955

I've been a fan of Dodwell's for a while now, ever since I was able to read a copy of her first book The Banishing. Which, I might add, is a creepy little read that I wholly recommend. There's this wonderful creepiness about her work that reminds me of some of the better pulp horror novels I'd read as a teen. You know the type, the ones that tried to play more heavily on the most basic fears and leave you feeling fairly uneasy- the ones that aren't always guaranteed to end with the main character standing triumphantly over the bodies of their enemies while puppies, babies, and kittens scamper around happily. The Shift continues in that vein and while a little on the short side, Dodwell makes the most of her novella and gives a fast moving book that's sure to please.

Michael White is a man desperate to escape his past. After tragedy costs him his job and marriage, he finds himself abandoned in a world of depression, loneliness and unemployment – until a new start working at a luxurious care home is offered. 

But Hill Wood House isn’t like any other care home. What are the shadowy figures that follow Michael? What do they want? And beyond the paranormal, who is stalking Michael? Who is entering his home at night and leaving disturbing messages across his walls? 

Can anyone ever really escape their past? Michael is about to go on a dark journey to uncover the truth behind what is haunting him – a truth that will wreak death and destruction to those Michael cares about.

As you can tell from the opening paragraph, I really enjoyed this novella. A good portion of the book is set within the posh care home and I'll admit that I have a soft spot for any place that involves creepy and remote settings. It has this instant atmosphere and helps enhance any spook activity- and there is spook activity in this book. I'll warn readers that there might not be as much description of the care home as a whole. It's a place where people with various disabilities are dumped by their wealthy families, but we're not entirely given a huge amount of detail except for what's immediately needed for the plot. This doesn't handicap the book (no pun intended), but I'll admit that occasionally I wanted a bit more detail here and there. More information on the type of residents allowed there, as well as some back story on some of their families, would have made them seem a little more fleshed out and fully realized.

What also intrigued me is that so far I've noticed that there's this theme in Dodwell's books that surrounds an unhealthy/obsessive love of some sort. That is present in this book, although I can't entirely elaborate on it because it's ultimately the whole gist of the book. I was actually a little hesitant to reveal even that much, as it gives away quite a bit, but then again if you've read any of her other works then you'll probably have expected this from Shift like I did. This is ultimately what made the ending that much cooler, as love is a theme that almost all of us can identify with in some form or fashion. We might not all be the type that creates hair dolls or carves someone's name into our chest (neither of which happens in this book, just listing those as examples), but the concept of someone doing something out of a twisted sense of affection is one that can unsettle just about any reader.

I didn't really have that many quibbles about this as a whole, other than wishing that occasionally there was a little more fleshing out. This works well with its page length and to be honest, this is better served as a novella than a 300+ page tome. It won't take the place of The Banishing as her most uncomfortable/interesting work to date, though. That's a pretty hard story to top, but The Shift will definitely please Dodwell's fanbase.

4 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by author)

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Title: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)
Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385537859
Release date: 05/14/2013

I'm a little torn over exactly how to review this, as some of what I might say might not sound fair to some. Essentially what my review boils down to in a nutshell is that while this book is readable, Brown's biggest failing is that he takes 10 pages to say something that could have been better imparted in about 5 or 6. It also doesn't help that the wide cast of characters distracts rather than intrigues. I really think Brown should have looked to his prior works, Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, because what made those two books work is that they were more to the point. That brevity and sense of pacing was more present here than in the last book, but it was still sorely missing.

Part of the biggest issue about the overly verbose prose here is that while this works very, very well whenever Brown is trying to inform us about some interesting factoid about human nature or history. When it comes to the action scenes? That's when the pages and pages of prose fail. Scenes that were supposed to be pulse pounding come across as less than urgent, at least to me. In many cases I was more frustrated that it took Brown so long to get to whatever point he was trying to make in any given scene than mesmerized.

There are, of course, characters that aren't what they seem. Many readers will be able to sniff out who they are a mile away, which lends even more to the sense of frustration over the book's pacing. I just wanted to scream at Brown "Come on, I know who FS-2080 is! Just get on with it!" This wouldn't have been so bad and could have brought about a nice sense of anticipation, except that again- this just took too long to get where it was going. In trying to be awfully clever, Brown just makes things far more complicated than they really needed to be. By the time he finally decides to reveal something, you'd already pretty much predicted this about 20-30 pages back, if not even sooner than that.

That isn't to say that this is awful, though. This is yards better than The Lost Symbol, although that might not be saying much to some readers. There are some interesting plot ideas submerged under pages and pages of Langdon musing over himself, his wardrobe, and running from one enemy or another. The idea of human population growth and the threat it brings on a global scale is a very, very intriguing and very current issue that I wish could've been explored more in this book.

Oh, and that's the other thing I should mention. This isn't really a "history's mysteries" type of book like the other Langdon books were. Langdon does spend quite a bit of time mucking about in dusty rooms, but the main threat here is something far more modern. I like the historical aspects and mysteries here, but occasionally I wished that there was less of that and more of the more modern elements, because that's where the real meat of this story was. While Brown does do a decent job of informing us about the various historical mysteries that serve as stepping stones to the eventual conclusion, these detract more than add to the overall pacing of the book. It just seemed a little too drawn out and I wish that some of these had been saved for perhaps a small novella or a future work. (I'd heard rumor that this was supposed to be the last Langdon book, but I'll believe that when I fail to see any further books.)

In the end, you're wondering: should I read it? Sure, why not? This is a decent enough library read, although I would like to stress that you'll probably want to get this from the library. It's interesting enough, but I think that for many this will be something they'll only read once or twice. Better to give your local library some much needed love on this one and then purchase it from Amazon or your local bookstore if you find that you really want to own Inferno. I just hope that many won't immediately discard this because of the more modern dangers, as I think that this element was one of the strongest pieces of the book. But yeah, this really could have been about 100 pages shorter and been all the more enticing for it.

3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Authors Don't Do This: Geoffrey Girard

Hoo boy. I take a sabbatical and I come back to more nonsense. Today I'm bringing you a new author to not emulate: Geoffrey Girard.

What did Girard do? He's committed a major faux paux by singling out a negative review (this one by Blythe) and trying to bash it down with his reasons why his book is the antithesis to all of the typical novels in the YA genre. While his blog isn't the worst thing I've ever seen (he's not asking people to downvote it while explicitly calling her an unpublished author, like Kiera Cass's agent did or threatening to call the FBI like Candace Sams did), it's pretty arrogant.

He basically talks about how all of the YA books are cookie cutters of one another, why he wrote everything to be different, how his students liked specific things and he tailored the book to fit those specific things, and how he got an agent and a deal based on his first 40 pages. His blog post doesn't specifically call out Blythe by name, but it's so specifically geared towards her review and comments that there's no mistaking that he doesn't like that someone negatively reviewed his book.

What made this so bad is that he's so arrogant in how he dismisses almost all of the other current YA literature out there. He does say that some of them are good, but in that same sentence he dismisses much of them as inferior clones of one another. Girard's post comes across less as him trying to rationalize why he wrote the way he did as much as he's trying to tell Blythe why her review is wrong and why his book is going to be the next great YA novel because he knows what teenagers want and that practically nobody else is giving it to them except for him. At least, that's how it comes across. He does try to give some lip service to the idea of "everyone will have differing opinions and that's ok", but that's pretty solidly negated by him trying to reinforce why his book is so awesome and indirectly trying to say why the reviewer just doesn't get why this book is so trendsetting.

The book might be good, but it's never a good idea to single out a negative review, especially in a blog post that comes across as fairly condescending in nature. Even if his book comes out and instantly wins a Newbery Medal despite being written for a slightly different age group, it's still never a good idea to call out negative reviewers in this fashion. Rather than come across as the wise sensei that totally knows what everyone wants and is one of the few people who actually "get it", you come across as an arrogant and pompous twit. It's pretty offputting, to say the least. This isn't even mentioning how bad this might appear to your students. You get a bad review and the first thing you do is take to the internet to discredit it rather than just shrugging it off as one of the inevitable negative reviews that every author is going to get, regardless of how well written their books are? What makes all of this worse is that this could have been an interesting blog post about his writing and research process, but he ruins it by using it as an opportunity to slag a negative reviewer.

I'd almost prefer someone along the lines of Sams or Cass's agent. At least they had the balls to come out and say "my book is awesome and your review is totally off course". It doesn't mean that they're right, but it does mean that rather than try to hide it under layers of indirect attack, they at least are up front about their accusations.

I hope for his sake that when the book comes out, it lives up to its claims. There's nothing worse than trying to claim that you're writing something that isn't par for the course, yet is what every YA reader craves, only to find that it doesn't live up to your own hype.

Further reading:

*1 Smart Thing I Did to Sell My Manuscript: NO Clones Allowed
*The review in question

Get it for free! Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Hi everyone! I found this via Goodreads, but I discovered that indie author Anya Allyn is offering the first book in her Dollhouse trilogy for free on the Kindle! It sounds pretty interesting, so I thought I'd spread the news around so she can get a few more downloads. Click on the pretty amazing cover to be taken to the Amazon listing or click here!

DOLLHOUSE is a dark, Gothic, Young Adult Horror.
Four teenagers chance across a mysterious, crumbling mansion in the depths of the mountains....
  • One of them is about to vanish.
  • One of them is lying about what he or she knows.
  • None of them will escape the fate awaiting them in the terrifying Dollhouse beneath the old mansion--a place of nightmarish horrors and insanity.

A slow-burn nightmare, a world of supernatural darkness and strange secrets.

Six months ago, fifteen-year-old Cassie Claiborne reluctantly moved from her home in Florida with her social worker mom. In her new home--a remote, mountainous Australian town, Cassie meets new friends--Aisha Dumaj, Ethan McAllister and Lacey Dougherty.

For the first time, Cassie falls in love. The only problem is that the boy she falls for is her friend, Ethan--and he and Aisha are already an item. When Cassie goes on a school hike to Devils Hole with her new friends, she tries desperately to keep her feelings for Ethan secret.

Aisha disappears on the hike without a trace--with the police believing she was murdered.

When Cassie, Ethan and Lacey return to the mountains to search for Aisha--Cassie begins to realize she never really knew any of her friends. Everyone has their own secrets. She discovers the stranger lurking inside everyone she thought she knew.

The darkest secret of all waits beneath the old mansion in the mountains--a secret from which there is no escape....

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: How To Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers

Title: How To Get Good Reviews on Amazon
Author: Theo Rogers

I was approached recently to review a book, a booklet really, about the practice of getting good reviews on Amazon. I'm disclosing this up front, as one of the practices mentioned in the book is that reviewers on Amazon are obligated to disclose if they'd been given the book for reviewing purposes.  (And even off Amazon, any good reviewer worth their salt should be mentioning this!)

The book is only about 40 pages long, but then I've always felt that when you're discussing a specific topic such as this you really don't need 200+ pages when a smaller amount will suffice. The chapters in the book are as follows:

  1. Inside the Head of the Amazon Reviewer (This chapter talks about what the reviewer wants, what they're looking for, and things to avoid when interacting with them. It's fairly general in tone.)
  2. Selecting Reviewers (This chapter talks about what authors/publicists should do when deciding which reviewer to select for your work.)
  3. Contacting Reviewers (As it suggests, this chapter gives recommendations on how to approach reviewers and how to phrase your query letters.)
  4. After the Review (This chapter talks about what you should- and shouldn't- do after receiving a review and how to talk to people if/when you get a negative review.)

My big take on the piece? Much of this is material that seasoned and experienced authors should already know about seeking reviews on Amazon and approaching reviewers. I say should, because I've seen several authors make some serious mistakes, such as leaving snide comments on a negative review or canvassing people off Amazon to leave reviews to make up for a negative one. (The implication here is that the author says something and people leave reviews for a product they haven't read, which only lowers people's estimation of both the product and the author.)

That's probably why booklets like these are fairly necessary, especially if you're a fledgling author that just uploaded your brand spanking new book into the CreateSpace system. If you're someone that has been around the block a few times, there are some interesting things in the book that you might not otherwise be aware of. The uber veterans? These are usually the ones who already know the lessons in this booklet and will already be (or should be) following these practices.

In short, this is a decent booklet and something I'd recommend for newbies or those who aren't fully familiar with how to approach reviewers. I especially recommend the "Contacting Reviewers" chapter because as someone who reviews and has several friends who review, many of them are easily turned off by poorly phrased query letters.

I'd give this a star rating on my blog, but this will be something that will be pretty subjective for the reader. For newbies it'll probably be a 5 since the basics are fairly clearly phrased and to the point. For those who are more experienced, that rating might go down depending on what expectations they had going into this.

(Copy provided by author)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Charlaine Harris isn't your bitch

I know, I know... this is already on a bajillion and ten blogs and I'm ripping off the title of a blog written by a far more clever individual. I just decided I needed to come out of semi-retirement to post on this.

It seems that someone in Germany managed to get a copy of the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Rather than quietly read it in secret and share the ending with only a few people, they pretty much broadcast the ending to most of the Internet, knowing that the pairing at the end of the book would probably piss off a lot of readers. Knowing that not everyone wants to know about the spoiler ahead of time and not wanting the flame fest between readers and towards her to continue, she politely asked for people to not talk about the book until it released.

Many readers respected this, but it seems like there were a ton of people that threw hissy fits about this and came up with various theories about why Harris requested this and other such ideas. Mary Janice Davidson wrote a rather informative blog about this, so I'll not bother restating it here although I will summarize some of it.

What irritated me the most was that people were saying that Harris was trying to stifle free speech and that she had no right to write the ending she did. While it's been a while since I've read the books (I lost interest in them a while ago for various reasons), she can write the endings any way she wants. Every author does. Does this mean it's necessarily the ending everyone would want or the best ending to the series? No, but it's their prerogative to write the way they want to.

It's just poor form for people to jump all over this the way they have.

Further Reading:
*The Bullying of Charlaine Harris and the Wisdom of Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Update on previous blog

I heard that Bryant mentioned me in a blog. Here's what went down as far as interviewing goes:

I'd been somewhat neglecting my blog and my e-mail and didn't see his posts until far later. Bryant had e-mailed me asking if I'd like to interview him. I thought about it, but didn't think I'd be the best place for it. I offered to pass this along to someone else such as John, but Bryant said that he wasn't comfortable with that. I figured that was fair enough, given the animosity that had been growing between then during this time. It wasn't as bad as it is now, but it was enough to where I could understand why he was uncomfortable. 

That was pretty much the end of it. He offered, I declined because I didn't think I was the best place and by large, I'd been trying to stay out of everything as far as the whole scenario goes. Heck, I don't even blog about BBA anymore unless it's something extreme, such as the whole Mike Kearby scenario. I just don't think there's any reason for most of the BBA things to get as much attention as they do. I understand wanting to boycott some authors if you feel that they've done something nasty, but then there are also some other scenarios where I feel that it's just a bunch of "me too" type actions and whatever message you were trying to send gets lost in the frenzy to react to whatever author has currently stuck their foot in their mouth in trying to respond to a review. I can understand some reaction to a point, but some reactions just seems a little overkill to what is sometimes a fairly underwhelming author response. When you've seen someone unleash full frontal crazy ala Candace Sams, it's hard to see the actions of someone such as Marata Eros as being anything other than a series of misunderstandings that got out of hand. But I digress. 

The thing is, he knows I declined and he was polite about it at the time. I was actually a little impressed that he was as polite as he was which is why I ended up declining another request from the opposite camp later on down the line. Because I'd had a limited interaction with Bryant, I was asked to write a blog, which I declined. I didn't feel comfortable with it and besides, what was I going to say? That he'd asked, I'd declined, I offered another avenue, and he'd politely declined? That's not exactly going to set the blogosphere on fire. That's sort of lukewarm tea and watching paint dry type of material. 

I just felt that the blogs talking about people's personal lives took away from the larger issues at hand when it came to the whole issue with reviews. I don't really see where anyone from either side needs to comment on people's personal lives unless it actually pertains to the reviewing process or whatever the person is writing about. For instance, if I was to write a book about BDSM ala Fifty Shades and talked at length about my Mistress Jolene and based the main character off of her, then went all batshit crazy over a negative review that says that Mistress Jaylene is the worst character to be written since  Dark'ness Demetria Raven Way in My Immortal, then yes. At that point my relationship would be something that would probably be appropriate to address when talking about the book, the review, and my reaction to everything. To a point, anyway. When this discussion starts becoming more of a way to insult me by way of the subject matter, that's when everyone needs to step away and take a deep breath. 

I don't really know what this blog will accomplish, but I wanted to clarify that despite the way Bryant put it on his blog, the whole interview request thing wasn't nearly as awful as it is made out to be. I just hope that from this point on he won't post anything like that again. There are better ways to make your point. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Personal attacks are uncool

I’ve generally tried to stay out of the whole thing between STGRB and the Goodreads Reviewers groups. Although I identify with the GR side more, I’ve always thought that both sides had very, very good points. Some authors need to learn how to react better to negative reviews and some reviewers need to understand that their reviews are seen as hurtful, which makes them less helpful to people discovering the book or author. I think both sides will occasionally overreact to various situations, dragging them out far longer than necessary. Especially since after a while the conversations eventually go from the actual subject at hand, the review and the author’s reaction, to conversations and speculation about people’s personal lives.

Even if the personal lives of whomever is involved does have some bearing on the situation at hand, which it usually doesn’t, this always turns very ugly very fast. What should be a conversation about the review or the author turns into a “he did, she did- wait, what about the book” type of conversation where both sides end up feeling like nothing was really accomplished because nothing was.

Why I'm bringing this up is because recently one of the members of STGRB did something that was so uncalled for, so appalling, that I couldn't stay silent about how I felt about it. The other day Carroll Bryant posted three blogs about various people, John Green, Amanda Welling (whom Bryant alleges is GenX), and Jude (the girl Bryant was in an online relationship with). I want to note that GenX denies being Welling and says that one of the STGRB admins also told Bryant that they weren’t the same person.

Rather than talk about everyone's parts in the whole STGRB/GR scenario, the blogs only existed to post personal accusations and remarks. Some of them included open speculation that was pretty far fetched and even if by some chance they were true, had absolutely nothing to do with reviewing books. Which is what STGRB is actually supposed to be about. In all fairness, I think this was all Bryant and not anything condoned by STGRB themselves as far as I know.

What were the remarks? GenX has screenposts, but they're pretty awful. Bryant accused GenX of having an affair, alleges that John visits prostitutes because he tweeted a porn star on Twitter, and posted a lot of personal information about Jude, the girl that he was supposed to have been in a relationship with. None of it had anything really to do with books. At all. The only thing that had anything to do with any of the past events was that Jude was supposed to have written a review for him and their relationship ended badly on both sides. I'm particularly horrified that Bryant is putting out more information about Jude than about him accusing GenX of infidelity and of John of being, well, a john. She was a minor at the time and regardless of how rocky the relationship was on either side, it's very poor form to go out and start releasing such private information. I can't vouch whether or not she's supplying information to anyone, but from what I've heard, Jude has wanted to remain out of the spotlight and keep her private life private. Continuing to release information about her serves no purpose and only makes Bryant look bad because of it.

I just have to ask... what did any of this really accomplish? What purpose did any of this really serve? I know that in the past people have speculated about Bryant's personal life, but I don't see where that merited a series of attack blogs. Part of what I hate about some of the stuff on Goodreads from both sides is that people bring dirty laundry into the argument. Forgive me if this sounds callous, but I don't care what people do in their personal lives. Let me rephrase that. I care if someone is going out and beating on nuns with a baseball bat. I don't want people to hurt other people. It's wrong and it shouldn't happen. But when we're discussing the merits of a review and whether or not authors should or shouldn't respond to a review they find over the top, I don't think that speculating on whether or not John has paid for sex has any place in that argument. If I were to go about doing something like that then all it'd do is discredit myself and any argument I was trying to make. It also draws away from what we should really be talking about.

Again, what did any of the blogs really do? For the most part I don’t see where a lot of people were really talking about Bryant anymore until his recent spate of activity where he began rehashing his Goodreads run in and his relationship with Jude. But really, what will this accomplish? It only makes Bryant look bad and by extension, further tarnishes the reputation of STGRB, who didn’t start out with a stellar reputation in the author/blogging world to begin with.

My point of posting this is to give my own viewpoint about this. These guys are my friends and I'm posting this not because I want to make a statement about the whole STGRB/GR scenario, but because I find actions like this disgusting. I'm not comfortable with everything that GenX or the GR group does, but hey- I'm a wimp. I'm the Fluttershy of our group of friends. I'm not an activist. I just couldn't see those blogs and not remark on them. I know I'm opening myself up as a target and for those who might want to take a swipe at me, know that this will probably be one of the few blogs I'll post about the STGRB/GR stuff. If you want to villainize me, then fine. I just felt like those blogs were uncalled for and I'd really like it if such personal speculation and remarks could be left out of it.


I'd been mentioned in a blog by Bryant and I'm going to post another blog about stuff.

Manga Review: Demon Love Spell Vol 2 by Mayu Shinjo

Title: Demon Love Spell Volume 2
Author: Mayu Shinjo
Publisher: VIZ Media
ISBN: 1421550776
Release Date: 03/05/2013

I have to say that this series is starting to bring me closer to the type of fan I was when I began reading Shinjo's work with Sensual Phrase. You could argue, and be correct, that her work suffered due to various companies forcing her to churn out SP clones, but it's taken her a while to really get her creative juices flowing again. This has to be one of her strongest works lately, in my opinion.

A supernatural romance by the creator of Ai Ore! and Sensual Phrase 

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works—sort of—but now Kagura is after her! 

Shrine maiden Miko has sealed the powers of the sexy incubus Kagura, who has vowed to protect her. But now a fox spirit has transformed himself into a human to proclaim his love to Miko, making Kagura jealous. Miko relents and allows Kagura to enter her dreams again, but now he can no longer regain his incubus powers?!

I think part of what makes this volume work is that the romance between Kagura and Miko is being built relatively slowly while still having plenty of nice steamy situations for them to tumble into. Miko does want Kagura, more so than she's really ready to admit, so most of the romance development in this stems from that aspect. Kagura's rather patient for a demon so much older than Miko is, but at the same time it kind of hammers in that Miko's still an inexperienced teenage girl. I kind of like that because this type of series is better when you have to make the two main characters work through their own personal issues before getting together. There are other plot points that come in and try to separate them, but the biggest issues are the ones that come directly from themselves and their own hangups or problems. This is part of what made Sensual Phrase so good, that even though the plot d'jour might have been sparked by some guy/girl/potted plant out to take one of the two people in the couple for themselves, the main problem was really some pre-existing insecurities or issues that the rival brought to the surface. I'm starting to see where this will be the case with this series and I'm pretty excited about that.

The artwork is, of course, top notch. Fans of Shinjo's steamier works will be a little sad to see that there isn't anything graphic in here, meaning no sex, but there are still a lot of pulse pounding scenes to be had. The artwork does a great job of bringing across the emotions. I'll admit that some of it is typical Shinjo and it'll be the same type of character designs that you've seen before, but the nice story lines help keep it from being too familiar.

I really loved this volume and when it ended, I was sad that I didn't have at least another chapter to flip through. This is turning out to be a series that I'd recommend to fans of steamier stuff and to older fans. Since Kagura is an incubus I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers for obvious reasons, as much of his actions are sexually driven. Incubi gotta eat, after all. There are no sex scenes, but there are sexual-ish situations and it's referred to frequently. Older teens would be fine with this, although parents will probably want to exercise some caution. You know what you want your kids reading, after all.

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by VIZ Media)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Press Release: IDW Announces New DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Miniseries!

IDW Announces New DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Miniseries!
CUTTER Cleaves into Comic Shops this April!

San Diego, CA (February 7, 2013) – IDW Publishing is thrilled to announce another action-packed entry in their line of Dungeons & Dragons comics! This April, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CUTTER, a five-issue miniseries written by R.A. and Geno Salvatore with art by David Baldeon and covers by Steve Ellis, weaves the tale of a family fiercely divided and at odds with itself, with a legendary sword hanging in the balance!

When the battle-hardened Drow renegade Tos’un must choose an heir to his legacy, his half-Drow son Tierflin and daughter Doum’weille become locked in vicious competition. But what will the prize, the bloodthirsty sword Khazid’hea, have to say on the matter?

“These comic series have become a wonderful tool for me to fill in the blanks and to crystallize my thoughts on the Legend of Drizzt novels going forward,” explains R.A. Salvatore. “The fallout from the twisting events in Neverwinter Tales not only came into play in the last couple of Drizzt books, but allowed me a strong plot line for an upcoming novel I’ve yet to pen. The same is true for Cutter – I see it already. So while these comic stories are self-contained, they open up to the wider stories going forward.”

From the writing team of powerhouse Dungeons & Dragons veterans R.A. and Geno Salvatore comes a tale steeped in action and intrigue, woven into the fantastically imaginative world that can only be found in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons & Dragons. Rounded out by the vivid art of David Baldeonand Steve Ellis’ striking covers, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CUTTER is sure to be a wildly fun ride for fans of Dungeons & Dragons and comics everywhere, not to mention an unexpected tie-in to this summer's blockbuster R.A. Salvatore novel!

Dungeons & Dragons: Cutter (FC, 32 pages, $3.99). In stores 4/17/13.
Diamond Code: FEB130303
share on Twitter Send IDW Announces New Dungeons & Dragons Miniseries! to friends on Facebook  

About IDW

IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s DOCTOR WHO; Toho’s Godzilla; and comics and trade collections based on novels by worldwide bestselling author, James Patterson. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio.
IDW’s critically- and fan-acclaimed series are continually moving into new mediums. Currently, Warner Brothers and Barry Sonnenfeld are attached to adapt LORE into a feature film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney are creating a feature film based on World War Robot, with Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes and Sony bringing Zombies vs. Robots to film.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Curious Case of Mike Kearby

Here's a potential "author behaving badly" for you: Mike Kearby. For those of you unfamiliar with what's going on, here's the summary:

Last year several bloggers were solicited to participate in a blog tour. Like most blog tours, blogger/reviewers can opt to either post a review or a book promo of some sort. One reviewer, Lizzy Lessard, didn't much care for the book and chose to post a book promo. Months later, she decided to go through her list of books she'd read and rate them on Goodreads. Her review was a very brief one star review where she basically said that she didn't like it and couldn't finish it. The review was finished off with a statement about how only a few blogs opined to post reviews. The author, Mike Kearby, read the review and made a comment and that's where it essentially all went to you know where in a handbasket.

What Kearby posted is as follows:

"A perfect example of a reviewer from the Simon Cowell generation. Lizzy: yes - you have the right to be critical of editing, wordbuilding, transitioning, etc...what you do not have a right to do is lie to enhance your review. Your last sentences, - where you pronounce that only two FMB bloggers opted to give reviews, seems on the surface to make your review universal in acceptance - except for the fact that your statement is not only inaccurate but a lie. You know that more than ten reviews came from the tour, most 4 and 5 Stars - and if you didn't know this, then you shouldn't have indicated that you did. It might be wise to get your facts straight next time."

Lessard then removed the last few sentences from her review and apologized for making the generalization. This didn't stop here, as Kearby continued to comment, making further posts such as "Thank you. But remember You are dealing with people's lives and how they make a living. You should always be respectful of that. it isn't a game or a joke to those of us that write." and accusing Lessard of outright lying. From there Lessard posted a blog of her own with screencaps (see here) and Kearby took to every social media site he could possibly find to decry what he saw as a "drive by reviewer", among other things.

Now here's my take: Kearby did have a right to ask that Lessard remove the comments about the book only getting a few reviews from other blogs. It was supposedly inaccurate and even if it had been accurate, there's really no reason to make comments like that. There's no way of knowing the reasons why other reviewers wouldn't have posted reviews, some of which wouldn't have anything to do with disliking the book. Other than that I think that Kearby was out of line when it came to several different statements.

Accusing Lessard of lying is definitely over the top. She made a generalization that was wrong and when informed of this, she removed the comment. There was no reason to imply that she did this on purpose by saying she lied. Also saying that she was being deliberately disrespectful is also over the top and doesn't really do anything to make him look better. As far as the comments in various social media sites go, that's another thing that's fairly inexcusable. If Lessard had been equally indignant when replying and done anything other than remove the final part of the review, then that might justify a tiny bit of further anger. But going onto every social media site you have an account with merely to blast her to the hills for what's ultimately a small review is overkill. In his blog post Kearby wrote that Lessard was a frustrated author, implying that this was revenge against him for having a publisher. Note that I say imply. He didn't outright state this, but the implication is there. This is why you try to be as careful as possible when writing rants. It's entirely possible that your words will make you appear not as a wronged author, but as someone getting mad over what's ultimately small potatoes.

Her review probably would have been largely ignored by readers at large. Commenting and overreacting to the situation just ensured that not only would hundreds of eyes discover this review, but it'd put a lot of readers off of your work. Case in point, myself. Without knowing about the review and the comments, I'd probably have read this book at some point in time. It has a fun cover and a B-movie vibe that I tend to enjoy with some of my reads. But now? I'm not sure if I'll read it. I've had more than one promising book get ruined by author shenanigans.

This is pretty much a classic case of someone getting more upset over something than they should have. It probably wasn't good for Lessard to make a blanket statement like that, but it's even worse to go onto her review and make catty comments, then go onto the internet and blast her over every single social media site you're a member of. If anything, this called for a short e-mail to Lessard requesting that she remove her comments about the blog tour. If she refused then you should probably go through Goodreads, but if you're concerned in the meantime then it's better to leave a polite comment correcting her. Getting affronted over the comment only makes you, the author, look bad.

There will probably be some rallying cries of "totally bullying" from various websites such as Stop the Goodreads Bullies or such, but the cold hard fact is that this is ultimately one author overreacting to what was a flippant remark on a largely insignificant review. I don't mean that as an insult to Lessard, just the fact that unless your review is printed in the New York Times or put on Good Morning America, our reviews don't really affect large scores of readers. Most of the larger bloggers only get about a few hundred or thousand hits on a review. Some of those readers still buy the books afterwards. Lessard has a decent fanbase, but nowhere near as big as someone along the lines of Oprah Winfrey. Her panning a book or making a generalization isn't likely to completely kill your sales. Overreacting probably will.

Further reading:

*The review
*Lessard's blog post
*Kearby's blog post


Kearby's comments have been removed and his account appears to be inactive. He's still complaining on his blog, but the more he talks, the worse he's sounding. He's sticking to the claim that Lessard was absolutely lying in a hurtful manner as opposed to her making a mistake or exaggerating. I'm saying mistake and exaggerating, as lying implies intent. I didn't really see intent in the review, just her trying to make a generalized statement to show that she wasn't the only reviewer who disliked it.

What has really surprised me is that for once, Stop the Goodreads Bullies isn't jumping on the "defend the author" bandwagon with this one. They actually defended Lessard rather than Kearby. That has to really say something, that a site that is known for twisting situations to defend authors under pretty much any stance is agreeing that Kearby's attack was too much. I'm rather glad they aren't defending him.

I just have one thing to say to Kearby: Stop. Just stop. You said your piece. You said more than your piece really warranted. Now it's just getting into personal attacks and you're making yourself look bad. If the good people at Damnation Press haven't e-mailed you to tell you to hush up, it's only because they haven't seen your comments yet. There's a difference between "setting the record straight" and getting angry over what's ultimately nothing. You're getting angry over nothing and you're pushing reviewers away. Kearby has stated that he has a small core of readers. That's nice, but publishing your work is also about gaining new ones and this isn't how you do it. I might have read his book if he'd walked away after the first few comments. Maybe even after the blog. But at this point? I don't think that I could distance his work from his tantrum, no matter how hard I tried.

Further further reading:
*Authors, Please Dont Do This (Stop the Goodreads Bullies)