Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sorting Through the Reviews to Come

Thanks so much for the many review requests. I’m almost up to February 1, so progress is being made. There were 268 emails regarding reviews last week. The list has been narrowed. If I didn’t pick your book, take heart, sometimes your story just isn’t in my wheelhouse for the week. I’m selective, moody, prone to snap judgments, and I make mistakes, lots of them, but know that I read everything, so the better your cover, title, blurb, and the start of your book, the better chance you have of a review.

And, I don’t reply to emails unless I choose a book, and I only choose books that are pitched by the actual author. Those of you who send out daily “here is a great book we represent,” forget it.

Beyond that, I read and review what gets my interest quickly. Remember, you have less than 30-seconds with the average book buyer. I’ll give you about two minutes, but if you don’t hook me, I swim away.

I read the first few paragraphs of a book today and the author wrote (paraphrasing to protect the innocent) that the main character could feel his attacker’s hot breath on his neck as he was being choked, and then started the next paragraph by saying that the main character sensed the approach of attacker number three. What?

Where was attacker number two? You wrote it was an attacker, not attackers. I’m sorry, but it’s the first page and you already lost me. This is inexcusable. If this is what you send me, sorry, no review. Better luck elsewhere and please consider letting someone else read your work before you upload it to Kindle. Obviously, the problem with a mistake like this is that the story might have been great, but I’ll never know!

Please keep in mind that I only review books that are available on Kindle right now. No prerelease or ARC’s. Alright, I’m bored with my rant and there is no excuse for not getting more reviews done, so a new book story will be out soon. Take care, and good reading.

 

Kindle Storyteller Contest

If you haven’t heard about the Kindle Storyteller Contest, you’ve missed a big promo with lots of opportunities. The simple rules are entering is open to new English Language books in all genres. The work must be unpublished, at least 5,000 words and available as an ebook and in print. Alright, that’s not quite all.

You must submit using Kindle Direct publishing and to enter the contest, authors include the exact phrase “StorytellerUK2017” in the keywords metadata field and enroll their book in KDP Select. And, it’s open until 19 May 2017.

Yeah, the UK part is a bit of a tell. You see this is also called the Storyteller UK. You must be at least 18 years old and publish your book through KDP on Amazon.co.uk. But, it’s not just restricted to UK residents. The only restrictions are to national or legal permanent resident of any of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria or Region of Crimea.

First prize is:

£20,000

Want more info? Check it out at Amazon.

 

 

A Look at Shelf Joy

shelf-recommendEver wonder what kinds of books Ernest Hemmingway might have recommended to young writers? Ever wish there was a place to find books like that? Well, enter Shelf Joy, a far-ranging collection of books from the shelves of famous and infamous people.

The brainchild of Aakanksha Gaur, Shelf Joy has now passed the threshold of 100,000 book recommendations. That’s saying something! Each snippet of book recommendations is linked to a person (say Bill Gates, or David Bowie) or a group of like-minded people.

How about the books that were sold at the recent Berkshire Hathaway Mettings, like Getting There or Limping on Water, who knew?

My friends and relative always recommend books to me, and now I can take a look at books read and enjoyed by people I admire. That’s a cool concept. I applaud Aakanksha for comming up with a new idea that’s both interesting and a lot of fun. Take a look, you’ll enjoy the site!

Rayme Michaels “Screw The Devil’s Daiquiri

 

Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri by Rayme Michaels is a strange brew of young, angry man angst screw-the-devils-daiquiri-book-coverand schizophrenia. The author knows this, as the preview runs:

“When womanizer, and possible schizophrenic, John Hazel, is suddenly offered a serious job promotion by the CEO of his company, David Wall, under the condition that John help him kill his wife, John finds himself between a rock and a hard place when Mr. Wall’s wife, Victoria Wall, asks John to do the same for her. John, an office temp, photographer and university teaching assistant of philosophy, has more than enough on his post-traumatic, hyperactive mind, without something as absurd as this weighing down on him, not to mention that he is haunted—well, annoyed more than anything—by either the spirits or imaginary spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina. Life does not seem to want to let up on John. Will he make it through this very bizarre time of tribulation, or will he end up behind bars, stone-cold dead, or simply cracking under the weight of it all?”

This is currently available for 99-cents – Screw The Devil’s Daiquiri

Patrick Kanouse “The Clearing”

the-clearing-novel-jacketPatrick Kanouse is an author who knows where he wants to go with a story, and The Clearing begins in medias res with immediate, significant action, and pulls the reader along with the sometimes reluctant characters.

The protagonist, Dean Wallace, a divorced, former New York City detective, finds himself with something to do, something important enough to turn his life around if he demands enough of himself to allow the improbable to happen. And, that’s the real question. Not whether he will solve a twisted murder puzzle, but will solving the case made a difference in his own life?

The Clearing hit Amazon on September 20, 2016, through Walter Glenn Publishing. It is available on Kindle for $2.99. The print length is 276 pages, about 3470 on my Kindle Fire and it’s an easy read, whether you catch some pages before bed or pass the time in your favorite chair by the fire.

I enjoyed the fact that Police Lieutenant Dean Wallace takes charge and develops leads. He actively pursues his hunches, instead of being a caricature of a policeman who things just happen to. On the flip side, I fault the author for being a little lax with some of the forensic work. The story is set in 1979, and we’ve come a long way since then, but little details can add up to big issues. Fortunately in this story they do not.

The author also takes time to set his surroundings, giving the reader ample details about each scene. Main characters are also fleshed-out, minor characters less so. Readers are likely to find this novel readable and worth their time, and money.

FOUR STARS

Characters: 13 Honesty: 14 Originality: 14 Plot and Pacing: 13 Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 68

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Kerrie Noor “The Downfall of a Belly Dancer”

downfall-of-a-belly-dancer-coverKerrie Noor’s novel, The Downfall of a Belly Dancer, arrived on Kindle November 19, 2016. It runs 231 pages – that’s about 2870 sections on my Kindle Fire.

This is a quirky, funny account of a troupe of women dancing through their friendship’s familiarity, and their life’s uncertainty in their small town located somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a quote from the book:

Lochgilphead is not the sort of place that attracts visitors; in fact, there are usually only two reasons why anyone visits Lochgilphead – to spend time with relatives and gloat, or because they were offered a job, and didn’t investigate before they accepted.

As with other “sisterhood” novels (and often in real life), the characters have pet names, and the main character, a belly dancer extraordinaire and teacher, is aptly named Nefertiti. She commands respect and at least grudging admiration from her friends and students until disaster comes on two fronts. She slowly loses students to a more charismatic dancer – or dance – Zumba, and Nefertiti loses the interest of her longtime mate, Rodger, who has built and is now sequestered in a shed, or what some might call a man cave.

Author Kerrie Noor lives in Scotland, so the writing is an enjoyable change for us here, slightly tinged with pleasantries not heard in the US, but she still manages to turn a backhand to restaurant chain McDonalds, so there is no language or societal barriers. And, readers will find a glossary at the end of this novel, just in case a word stumps.

FOUR STARS

Characters: 15 Honesty: 16 Originality: 15 Plot and Pacing: 13 Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 73

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

John A. Heldt “Class of ’59”

class-of-59-book-coverJohn A. Heldt is the prolific author of American Journey, a series of books dealing with time travel and the mysteries they could present. Class of ’59 is the fourth offering, putting modern day Mary Beth McIntire on a collision course with Mark Ryan, who just happens to reside in the same house. The only issue is their date of reference. Mark’s is March of ’59.

Set in Southern California, the book reminds me of the 1980’s movie Peggy Sue Got Married, where a woman travels back in time to about the same date. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and Heldt doesn’t disappoint in his description of the late ’50’s.

The scenes Heldt sets in LA and Hollywood are vaguely familiar to me from movies of that period, perhaps a treat to relive for older readers. Class of ’59 is 293 pages, about 4118 on my Kindle Fire, and a pleasure to read. Published on September 1, 2016, the novel runs $4.99.

The writing is good solid fun, and quite entertaining as believable characters (with backstory and actual feelings) move back and forth through time. The author focuses much of the story on what was happening in his characters minds in 1959, with high school and young love, instead of trying to prove the experience is real or worrying about the difference in our American heritage from 50-odd years ago. There is a huge difference, and it has to be dealt with, but it’s not the main story.

Five Stars

Characters: 16 Honesty: 16 Originality: 15 Plot and Pacing: 16 Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 80 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Laura Hillenbrand “Unbroken”

unbroken-coverLaura Hillenbrand is the remarkable author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and of course her previous work is also remarkable, but her own story will probably be a movie at some point in our lives. She wrote Unbroken as well as Seabiscuit after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrom and suffering from such an acute case of vertigo that she wrote much of the manuscripts longhand while holding onto the bathtub and writing with her eyes closed. Remarkable.

That said, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,  tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a Depression-era youth who is saddled with running track by a school principle and his older brother after repeated scrapes with the law. So Louis gets off easy, emerges as a star runner, participates in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then becomes a WWII Army Air Corps B-24 bombardier. Then things turn the other way.

Louis and his B-24 crewmates ditch at sea after being shot from the sky. There are three survivors. Eventually, they are to endure weeks and weeks upon the ocean with no food, nestled into a tiny raft the size of a coffin. This is not the worst part. That comes later, in Japanese POW camps.

What is amazing, beyond the story, is the amount of work put into this book by the author. She does credit dozens of people for helping her with myriad details, but overall, this is a stunning work of nonfiction. It does not read quite as lively and free as Seabiscuit, but then again, the subject is much tougher.

Published by Random House, the book is 529 pages and a whopping 12610 KB. Originally published in November of 2010, the book has now been made into a motion picture. It’s not for kids.

As for the Kindle edition, it is $11.99, which is why I read the $9.89 paperback, sorry trees. On the readability side, it is long and very detailed, and certainly not lite fare. I could probably have done just fine with about 150-pages less. Still, you won’t go away unmoved by Louis Zamperini or the author.

FIVE STARS

 

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli “The Mentor”

the-mentor

The Mentor, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, is a fast-moving Crime/Detective novel originally written in Italian and translated into English. That does leave the reader struggling a bit from time to time with specific words used in the text, but those aside, the writing translates well into a  good novel, providing you don’t mind the story and characters sounding like this is happening in some random US city and not London.

This work was published by Amazon/Crossing in November of 2015. The text is 226 pages and on my Kindle, there are 3015 positions.

As the story begins, Eric Shaw is a forensics detective who investigates a triple murder and finds a small child, still alive, under a bed. Why this child is never interviewed about the murders is a mystery to me. So this is Mystery, more than a Detective story.

There are plenty of twists in the plot, and in the minds of the bad guys, but the most twisted mind is the main character, Eric Shaw, since he manipulates his own forensics work to punish and convict criminals when they can’t otherwise bring them to justice. This isn’t Jack Reacher taking the law into his own hands as a private citizen, this is the head of the department presenting falsified claims. Hmmm.

Characters are sometimes presented and forgotten but for the most part, at least the “good” guys have some backstory and aren’t just cardboard cutouts. Unfortunately, I had no respect for the protagonist. That makes this review tough. However, if you are reading this to see a bunch of false reasons to read this, forget it. If you want a quick read with some gore and plot twists, the book is $5.99 at Amazon Kindle.

As for the police and forensics work, well, the author does admit:

“Although I included some real information about the organization of police forces in London, I nevertheless took full artistic license concerning professional positions of numerous employees, as well as the logistics and procedures utilized by the Forensic Science Service Laboratory and Murder Investigation Teams of London’s Metropolitan Police Service in order to better adapt them to the plot.”

I don’t think every book can be perfect, and some “poetic license” is always fine with me, but I’ve grown to expect a little more specific about actual procedures, and I love to learn something new, providing it is accurate.

FOUR STARS

Characters: 15 Honesty: 13 Originality: 14 Plot and Pacing: 16 Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 72 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

 

 

Jane Paterson “Gatekeepers of the Grapevine”

gatekeepers-of-the-grapevineAuthor Jane Paterson’s first novel, Gatekeepers of the Grapevine is a solid offering. It offers a look at the lives of several women as their struggle through relationships, time and the fortunes of living in Cape Town, Africa. Paterson, herself born in South Africa, has a natural flair for the vernacular, and her storytelling is good.

This novel is considered women’s literature, or women’s fiction, only because the main characters are all women as if that negates men from having an interest in the story. Right now the book is available on Kindle for $2.99 and runs 258 pages, about 3650 positions on my device.

This isn’t Out of Africa, nor a James Michener tome, so don’t expect a narrative deep in African culture.  Instead, consider it lighter fare, perhaps equal to the 1980’s US TV hit Dynasty, with the main characters all female and the gatekeeper of Vintner’s Estate, the puppet master.

Pacing is moderate, a good novel to sit and enjoy a cup of tea with, and the plot stays steady. The characters and their traits are established early, although not in great depth, and the story begins in

FIVE STARS

Characters: 15 Honesty: 15 Originality: 18 Plot and Pacing: 16 Storytelling: 16

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 80 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars