On reviews

As I have mentioned previously, reviews are the lifeblood of the self-publishing world.  For big-time authors like Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson, there are teams of people who work to get the works of these authors into the hands of reviewers.  For freshman authors – such as yours truly – you have to rely on friends, family, and if you’re very lucky, complete strangers for reviews.

Several months ago (October maybe?), a reviewer came onto my horizon.  This reviewer has an awesome gimmick for their reviews: you have to “immerse” him (the reader) or your book “dies”; hence the name of his reviews: Immerse or Die.

The concept is great.  He steps onto his treadmill, turns on his Kindle and begins reading.  He does 40 minutes on his treadmill, and if you manage to capture his imagination for the duration, your book “lives”.  If your book does not, he gives a very fair review of what went wrong, and where (time-wise) he got into the book.  From what I have seen, he has a preference for science-fiction but doesn’t blow off fantasy works.

So, here is where my book comes in.  I submitted my book to him to see how well I’d do.  To be honest, I held out hopes that he’d find my first published work to be shaky, but a great start.  I was not up to this task.  Let me offer here sincere thanks to Jefferson Smith and his review of my book.  I cannot thank him enough for this review.  Not because it is some gilded ticket to the upper tiers of author-hood (is that a word?), but because he gave me a real review.

On December 9th, 2015, Jefferson Smith published a review of my book on his site.  I will admit that my book “died” at the 2:26 mark.  Here is a link to the review.  Mr. Smith provided a candid, and honest, critique of my work.  I will honestly say; he’s largely right on with his assessment.  As a first time author, I have little experience with the profession of “writer”.  I made tons of mistakes in my first book.  I have spoken at length on how much I wish I could go back and “just re-write that one part….” and such. But, I won’t.

Reviews are always good, so long as they are helpful.  Mr. Smith’s analysis is outstanding.  And trust me, I could only wish he could’ve found some part of my book to be more to his liking, to entice him to finish reading the book.  My start might have been a tad rough, but the book ends well.  In the interest of providing my real opinion on his review, I was a little disappointed but happy that someone else had given it a chance.  As a freshman author, I always hold out hope that someone will love my story as much as I do.

Review: The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens

The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens is the first published work of the new author, Katie Cash, and is the first book of the Mapkeeper series. The book would be appropriate for younger audiences, but there may be some parts that are a bit too graphic. The story is essentially the classical monomyth. There’s nothing wrong with the monomyth – or Hero’s Journey – it is classic, very sound, storytelling, and it works.

In a complex double-world story, Ms. Cash has managed to tell an interesting story. Lucy Barnes is from one world, living in the small town of Algid, under an oppressive – and shady – government called the Commune. Shivers at that name. Living an ordinary, mundane life, Lucy is selected to be the Mapkeeper. Ms. Barnes, through the magical artifact (the map), can transport between her world and the fantastical world of Praxis. Praxis has many different sentient species including trolls, centaurs, and kobolds.

The world of Praxis finds itself on the brink of trouble, not that her world filled with the Commune is much better. Lucy and her brothers are transported – via the still yet to be understood map – to Praxis and greeted as honored guests. Upon arrival, the trio is introduced to the king of Praxis and all the leaders of the clans of Praxis. The looming dread of the story is the presence of the Wardens. The Wardens are responsible for having created the map but are also responsible for nearly killing all of the non-human creatures of Praxis years ago.  The story has many complex characters and a small romantic subplot.

The story is sound if a bit rushed. There are some minor issues with editing, but those are pretty common in such works, therefore, forgivable. There are a few issues with spans of time in the book, namely when dealing with recovery times. Again, these issues are mainly minor and very easily overlooked. Towards the end of the story, a great deal of the story is apparently dealt with, leading the reader to feel that there may have been too much going on, this leads to the story feeling rushed.

Here’s the final verdict:

Grade: B-

Good: Interesting world, decent sense of foreboding and dread in both Algid and Praxis. The map is an interesting artifact, and how it functions is unique. The cover art is excellent.

Bad: The story does have some places that are a bit rougher than others. There are minor issues with miscellaneous world-related items. The pacing can be jarring.

Final Statement: All-in-all, a decent first book. I am confident that Ms. Cash will continue to hone her writing skill over the subsequent books.

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies

After reading the first book of Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard SequenceThe Lies of Locke Lamora, I picked up the second book: Red Seas Under Red Skies.  

I am thoroughly enjoying this series.   The first book was excellent, and the second shows that there is a lot more going on in the world.

Red Seas Under Red Skies revolves around our two principle characters: Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen.  Thieves by trade.  The two of them have left Camorr (after the events of The Lies of Locke Lamora) and found themselves in Tal Verrar – ready to run a heist against a massive casino called the Sin Spire.  I love that name.  Honestly, someone in Las Vegas should totally name a casino the Sin Spire.

But, the heist is not without its issues.  There is more going on in Tal Verrar than just business as usual.  There is a massive power struggle happening, and as you might expect, Jean and Locke get mixed up in the middle of it.

The story runs a good clip.  Clearly, Mr. Lynch did a bang-up job on research for this story.  You can’t just look up words for things on a sailing vessel; you have to learn a bit to understand how sail plans work and such.

Overall I would give the story a B+.  Some parts that felt a bit rushed and the conclusion of one of the major sub-plots was a bit hasty.  Otherwise, this was an excellent story.  I will offer that this book is not intended for children.

Mr. Lynch has created an incredible world, with a great deal of complexity.  There is a full pantheon of gods – complete with worshippers and rites.  There are superstitions and powerful groups who shouldn’t be crossed lightly.  I will certainly be (in fact, I already have started) reading the third book The Republic of Thieves.

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Where to begin?

So as some of you may recall, I recently picked up one of Scott Lynch’s books.  Sadly, it was book 3 (I swear I didn’t know!) of an established series: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence.  Upon my realizing my mistake, I returned to my audiobook purveyor of choice (Audible) and grabbed the first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I finished the book yesterday, and now I am ready to write my review.  I will try to avoid spoilers on the story, but I will say that some spoiler-ish things are going to be said.  Such as Locke Lamora survives the book, this should be obvious as there are three books currently published in this series, and Locke Lamora is the main character.  So, if I spoil something of the story here, I apologize. 

Grade: A-  Trust me, it’s very difficult for a book to earn a perfect score, but this book was (by my measure) really flipping great.

I will give you the distilled version of this review upfront: Buy this book.  Read this book.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I believe you will as well.

Now the longer version:

The story revolves around a thief named Locke Lamora.  What a great name.  As an old-school fan of comics, alliterative names are just fun.  Locke is an amazing con man with a very colorful past.  A good deal of Locke’s early life is told through a series of interludes. It is during these interludes that we learn of how he became a thief and how he met the thieves with whom he works: The Gentlemen Bastards.  Again, another great name.  I will not spoil any of his backstory here, but I will offer that if Mr. Lynch decided to write a series of stories about Locke and the rest when they were young thieves, I’d buy it.

Fundamentally, the story is about a massive con game.  Not trying to give anything away, and I will explain no more of it in detail. The story manages to maintain a splendid pace, and the action sequences have been written extremely well.  So well as to make me wonder what if any, martial arts Mr. Lynch has studied.  There are many colorful characters and brilliant twists.  I would love to tell you about a twist near the end of the story that had me in stitches, but that would spoil the fun.

The narrator, Michael Page was brilliant.  So if you are a fan of audiobooks (I most assuredly am), I recommend it.  If you are a fan of words on a page (including e-readers), this book is still a fun read.

Am I an idiot for writing a review of a book that is now eight years old?  Perhaps.  But, I did promise to write a review of the book to make amends to Mr. Lynch for missing the first two books.  Will I continue to read the series: that’s a definitive: YES.  I found the story and characters to be very interesting.  I think that Mr. Lynch’s world-building skill is amazing, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.