The Martian— a quick review and some commentary

The MARTIAN coverOften, I choose to read indie published books rather than those from the “big six” publishers, because I find the content of indie books to be a bit more raw, unpolished, and (sometimes) unique. Yes, I am disappointed from time to time (as in my previous post) but I keep trolling for new authors and books. However, recently, Goodreads sent out a newsletter and the science fiction book of the year was Andy Weir’s The Martian. The blurb caught my eye so I bought it, but didn’t begin immediately, as I was slogging through a book on SEO (search engine optimization) at the time. Over the weekend, I began The Martian, and I was hooked. Like from the first page, I was seriously into the story.

The plot is not a new one. An astronaut is marooned on Mars. His fellow crew members are on the way home, believing that he is dead. But, this astronaut is determined and a heck of an engineer, so he keeps finding ways to use what is at hand to survive. After a while, the NASA folks figure out he is still alive, so they are trying to figure out how to get him home. Yes, it is really suspenseful. But sometimes it is laugh out loud funny, because the main character is quite a character.

Actually, this book was so engaging that I began to question my quest for good indie books. If the big guys are publishing this kind of science fiction, then I should be looking at the best seller lists again. So, after finishing the book, I did a wee bit of research and learned that Weir’s book was originally self-published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct (yeah!) and only after it sold thousands (at 99 cents, because that’s Amazon’s minimum price) in the first three months did big publishing come calling. Now, it is the basis for a movie starring Matt Damon.

The book is cool. Weir’s evolution as a writer is seriously cool. Many of the self-published and small press published writers, including yours truly, would love to have this sort of rags to riches experience. The impediment to that is having a really great book. The Martian is such a book. So, my suggestion is read it now and try to wait for the film version. Gravity won an Oscar, so the way is paved for another near future space adventure to do well at the box office.

S. E. Smith’s Ha’ven’s Song (Curizan Warrior Book 1)

Lots and lots of readers give S.E. Smith’s books five-star reviews. Honestly, I just could not do that. This is my first read of one of her many novels. Really, there is much to like in it, including a heroine who needs so much that the reader wants her to finally have her HEA. Her life on earth went from great to troubled to “get me outta here,” and somehow she was brought to another planet (universe?) I’m not sure; that part was kinda fuzzy to me. However, there is plenty of action. Still, this is more fantasy than sci fi. There are auras, a goddess blessing the union, yadda, yadda. I’m a fan of science fiction, which has lots of themes, but I am not much of a fan of fantasy. Remember in the original Star Wars (now episode 4) where Han Solo tells Luke he’d rather have a blaster instead of relying on the Force? I am a blaster kind of gal.

Basically, it is a romance wearing SFF garb, with and emphasis on the second F. Oh, and if you like lots of good loving (with some sex) then this might be a treat. For me, sex is not a spectator sport.

Some characters and situations appear to be borrowed from other novels by this author, so fan of Smith might enjoy those, but it is a bit like being a friend at a family reunion. The book does stand alone, but some of the clutter of characters could be eliminated.

Only Human— a review

Only Human is my second Chris Reher novel, but this is actually book 3 in the series, which features  Nova Whiteside, a military pilot in some future universe. For me, neither the plot nor the characters were as novel this time as they were in the first one, but this is a good book. It begins with Nova being rather bored at a training facility; however, readers are briefly introduced to her father, Colonel Whiteside. Before readers have a chance to get bored along with Nova, she is transferred (perhaps a bit of a promotion, but no change in rank) to the Vanguard, and she is specifically assigned to a Delphian officer, and they are off on a journey. At first they don’t get along so well, but as the action develops, so does the main character’s affection for her commander.

In an effort to avoid spoilers, I’ll just close by saying the main character is engaging, and there is a good bit of action and suspense. Fans of hard science fiction may have trouble with this story, as some aspects are rather like Star Trek, but that usually doesn’t bother me. There are enough editing glitches to keep this from being a five star novel, but for an indie author, it is quite good. Fans of military fiction and/or strong heroines should enjoy the further adventures of Nova Whiteside.

Sky Hunter— a review

Sky Hunter coverThere are taboos in writing fiction, including this one: female characters can’t be raped. I don’t approve of this crime, any more than I approve of murder, of child molestation, of armed robbery, of well…lots of felonies. Still, crimes do happen, and if a novel is to keep it real, sometimes bad things happen to the main character. Still, rape is taboo. As a writer, I have paid the price for violating that taboo. And, this isn’t much of a spoiler, but in Chris Reher’s Sky Hunter, the heroine does have that experience, early in the novel. But, this is a serious tale of warfare in space, and bad things happen, including the afore mentioned violation.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me say that Reher’s Sky Hunter is a very, very good space opera. The main character is one I wanted to see overcome the difficulties of the opening chapters. Caring about the heroine is absolutely necessary, especially when a book isn’t a light-hearted romp. The other characters, at least some of them, also enjoyed significant development, and the plot twists like a scenic mountain road. Reher’s world building is pretty good, too. For military buffs, there is action aplenty, and enough political intrigue to keep the reader guessing.

Right now, this book is free as a Kindle title, and I highly recommend it to fans of military fiction. But, if you’re a whimp, don’t bother.

234 Freebies= 2 reviews

When I signed up for the Kindle Direct eBook publishing program, one of the promotional opportunities was to give the book away for up to five days during the 90-day contract. Recently, I picked five successive days, hoping that interest in Trinity on Tylos might be rekindled, even though the book was originally released in 2006. During the give-away, it rose to around #18 on the Science Fiction/ Free list. Unfortunately, as of this post, the experiment doesn’t look to have been especially helpful. For those 234 free downloads, I have gotten (thus far) two reviews. Thankfully, both of those were good ones. Clearly, those readers are superior intellects! Gotta worry about the single return, however.

Seriously, there is some risk, beyond losing sales, to giving away an eBook. Some authors report that readers have little respect for free content and are prone to writing negative reviews. Other authors believe that few readers actually read the free content, and that is also a valid concern. As a reader, I seldom choose to read a full price book before one that was on sale or even free; but I put more thought into buying a book than into downloading a freebie.

Hopefully, more of those 200 plus Kindle customers will eventually read, enjoy, and (maybe) review Trinity on Tylos. As a science fiction story, set in the future, it is more “timeless” than my contemporary suspense novel The Gift Horse. While I believe both books are both entertaining and thought provoking, Trinity is a bit more serious thematically. I’d really like to see more folks read it. Which is why I did the giveaway, rather than the “countdown” promotion that is more popular. So, if you downloaded it but didn’t read it yet, maybe this weekend will be a good time to read a science fiction novel.

Black Hole Bounty— a review

Black Hole Bounty coverRecently, I read Sienna Bronwyn’s Black Hole Bounty, which was a little more erotic than the romances that I normally read, but this one was quite good. The heroine, Jerusa, is different (an albino of Central American origin) who wears a nose ring and is scared of heights. Actually, she’s scared of lots of things…but that’s what a big part of what makes her an interesting heroine. She’s already married and has a daughter, and that’s atypical as well. The plot is not as far from the norm (for science fiction romance) as are the characters, so I’ll call it character driven fiction. It’s also rather funny, because the POV character is, well, quite a character. Still, this story is an action/adventure, and Jerusa never runs out of beings who make her afraid. Often, she has every reason to be scared silly.

As some of the reviewers on Amazon stated, the worst thing about this story is that it is first in a series and the other entries are not yet available. Some authors are great at writing a series where each story can stand alone, but lots of writers are not bothering with that these days, and that’s annoying, but again, not unusual.

If Ms. Bronwyn can get part two of this series out before I forget all about the story, then I will be happy to purchase it. So, dear author, get busy.

My favorite price— free!

ToT_cover_final_webLGTrinity on Tylos is now published exclusively through Kindle Direct, and one of the promotional benefits is that Amazon allows authors to schedule up to five free days. I’ve scheduled October 16-20 as “free” days for Trinity on Tylos. This is not to be confused with Kindle Unlimited borrowing; this download is yours to keep.

So, if you haven’t read my revised science fiction story, this is your chance to read it for free. Of course, Amazon hopes, as do I, that readers will give it a good review. Anyway, I hope you will read it, and pass this notice along to readers of science fiction, space opera, and action/adventure.

How to write a bad book review

DIYYep, that title was carefully phrased to have dual meanings. I’ve been a book reviewer and an author. Sometimes, as a book reviewer, I just didn’t like a book. That’s tough. Sometimes, as an author, readers don’t like what I have written, and that is tougher, because a one star review can cause book sales to plummet. Well, unless the reviewer is an obvious nut-case, and in that instance…it still hurts.

First, let’s deal with how to review a book that isn’t just want the reviewer/reader wanted. If writing for a site or magazine, the best thing is for the reviewer to just pass on it. Let’s face it, not everyone likes every book. Really. I’ve read classics and wondered, how the heck did this book even get published, much less remain after its fellows all ended up in the landfill? So, it really is best to pass it to another reviewer who might be more amenable to the book. But, if it is absolutely necessary to review it, begin with what isn’t wrong with it. Surely there is something— good prose, interesting setting, an absence of poor spelling and/or grammar. Find something good. Then, state the objection(s) clearly, and then explain the obvious— that others might not agree. If five stars are available, then rate accordingly, and there really should be more than one star clicked. Because whatever the reviewer found that was good probably warrants a second or even a third star.

A really, really bad book is going to be rife with problems— spelling, grammar, formatting; or lackluster characters, a plot that moves more slowly than molasses on a cold winter’s day; or even inconsistencies (such as a character with blue eyes in chapter 1 and brown ones in chapter 8). In such cases there is no need for the reviewer to get emotional and resort to “I”, “me”, or “my” because the author burdens the work with too much evidence that the book is indeed bad. There, and only there, might those one and two star reviews be warranted.

If the book is an eBook, and the reader purchased it from Amazon, there is a return feature. Did you know that? I didn’t, until recently. Anyway, the other day I returned a highly rated sci-fi novel. I did not write a bad review, because I wasn’t about to waste enough time to read it and then review it. Those who slog all the way through a Kindle title only to write a one star review must have intense masochistic tendencies.

Finally, I’ll deal with the second interpretation of my title. Sometimes readers do write really bad reviews. Readers (hopefully not reviewers) who write bad reviews seem to have a tantrum while sitting at the keyboard. The most prominent word in the review is probably a first person pronoun, such as “I” or “my” or “me” because such reviews are not written for other readers, but to express the emotions of the reviewer. In short, bad reviews begin with a lack of objectivity. Then the bad reviewer indulges in emotion, from boredom to revulsion, but the writer of the bad review seldom mentions any positive(s) in the book. Finally, writers of bad reviews usually need a reason for the hissy fit, so the review ends with a warning, guised as altruism to save potential buyers from a book that took months (or even years) to write and costs less than a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Do it yourself book reviews are just as much a part of modern life as kids who commit suicide because they can’t handle what their mean peers write about them online. Authors just have to be tough.

A Galaxy Unknown— the sequels

Jenetta Carver image

This is an update as well as a review. A while back, I read Thomas DePrima’s A Galaxy Unknown, and despite some serious flaws, I was so taken with the main character and the “universe” of its setting that I immediately began reading the sequels. Somewhere around book five, I had had enough. The main character seemed way too perfect and the rest of the characters were just there to heap praise upon her. So, I read lots of other stuff, but after running out of new stuff, one night I began re-reading the series. And, when reading them back to back, they seemed a bit better. Or maybe, I got used to the annoying stuff. Anyway, having caught up with where I left off, I just downloaded book 7, so I am clearly enjoying the series.

Space opera, especially the theme sometimes called “galactic empires” is a favorite of mine. Lots of indie authors give this genre a try, so I seldom run out of reading material. However, some of it isn’t particularly entertaining. Jenetta Carver’s exploits clearly owe something to another favorite character (Honor Harrington) but while David Weber’s works have become ever so much complex, DePrima’s stories have not. So, these novels are certainly light reading, but for me that is a plus. If I want to think, think, think when I read, I can always pick up one of hubby’s law books.

If you like space opera with a dash of romance, do try Trinity on Tylos, my stand alone novel. (Right now, it is cheap, too!) But, if you want a series, with very little romance, but a strong heroine, DePrima’s A Galaxy Unknown (and its many sequels) is pretty good.

Coolest cover art

I’ve been looking online for information about the new versions of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels— there’s a video game, comic books, and a forthcoming movie! While the news is interesting, the art files coming from the comic books are seriously cool. I am looking forward to all of it, especially the film version, because Honor is one of my favorite characters of all time.

But, I saw some cover art files from an artist in Europe who is absolutely nailing the image I have of Honor and her universe in my miid. Wonderful, powerful images. Check this out, HH fans!

honor_among_enemies_2_by_genkkis-d5c6lhm honor_harrington___field_of_dishonor_by_genkkis-d72fwyj honor_harrington_war_of_honor2_by_genkkis-d2mtz6ahonor_harrington_flag_in_exile_by_genkkis-d2mty9d

There are more files, as well as some interesting discussion between fans and the author over at Deviant Art.

Honestly, I am simply blown away by the talent and the skillful interpretation of the artist.