Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: The Real West

My dad was fond of westerns, mostly on television, as we didn’t have the cash to visit the cinema often, and he wasn’t a reader. His favorites were Gunsmoke the mini-series Lonesome Dove. However, we watched a lot of them in the day. So the names Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, Billy the Kid, General Custer, Davy Crockett, and Doc Holliday seem rather familiar. As I read Bill O’Reilly’s book, Legends and Lies: The Real West, I got the impression that he was attempting to inform those of us who learned our history of the west by watching the Hollywood versions that much of what we remember might fall within the two categories: legends and lies. Indeed, the afterward explains how westerns came to be such a staple in early films and series television, and I enjoyed that more than any other part of this book.

Overall, I enjoyed O’Reilly’s informative text, but after reading Killing Patton (see my previous post) this one was a bit of a let down. The stories were not nearly as compelling as the story of Patton. However, it is interesting, and the period photos are really nifty. For those who are students of historical figures in the old West, this might be too basic, but for casual readers, the tone and depth is just right.

I read the Kindle version, so the pictures were a bit hard to see. For anyone really interested in the photography, the hard cover might be better.

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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.

Short Reviews of my Summer Reading (thus far)

I’ve read a few new (or new to me) titles, which could all be loosely grouped into the sub genre of science fiction romance. These titles were chosen because the authors are favorites of mine.

First, I read the novella “The Day Her Heart Stood Still” by Susan Grant. This yarn, originally published in a collection, is now available as a stand alone from Amazon’s Kindle Store. Grant’s early works, especially the suspense filled Contact and the light-hearted time travel novel Once a Pirate are my all time favorites by Grant. TDHHSS is just as light-hearted as the latter, but is more like Contact in subject matter. Anyway, it is the story of an astronaut’s encounter with an extra terrestrial, and since the format is short, the love story happens at a whirlwind pace. As I read it, I kept thinking it would have made a great stand alone novel. And, Grant is especially good at connecting with her readers, so she has a neat back story on the story on her website/blog.

Pauline Baird Jones is a fabulous writer, and there are a some wonderful examples of her creativity in her sequel to a sequel, Kicking Ashe. The book which began this series, The Key, is one of my favorite science fiction/romance stories. While I liked the sequel, Girl Gone Nova, I didn’t love it. Maybe it has been too long since I read those yarns, but somehow the Kicking Ashe story didn’t really work for me. However, Jones’ character development and prose is as entertaining as ever, and this story has earned great reviews and a Galaxy award over at SFR. Maybe it was just me….

Another series in this genre that I have enjoyed is by Janet Miller, and it all began with Promises to Keep, followed by the first book I read in the series, Beloved Enemy.  I seemed to have missed Beloved Traveler, but I enjoyed Beloved Stranger quite a bit. All of these books are far more romance than science fiction, but in a day and age when marriage between men and women is more and more ephemeral, the idea of mating for life is something to admire or even fantasize about. Indeed, the whole Gaian concept of “attachment” of males to females is a bit more fantasy than science fiction, but I have enjoyed the stories in this series and I do recommend them to true romantics.

I’ve read a few other items too, but nothing worthy of a review. Still, the hottest part of the summer is yet to come, so I will probably be reading rather than out sweating….