Tag Archives: book reviews

According to Mickey…

I have been using the book-reviewing service called Pubby to get readers to actually read and review my books. I have barely gotten any readers to pick up and read one of my books since I first started publishing my work in 2007. And I get it. Beginning authors, no matter how good they are going to be later, are not so very good on the first, second, or even third try. My family is reluctant to read anything I have written because I pester them too much about it. My children are all creative in their own way, and consumed more by their own projects than by anything I have done. And when my wife reads anything I have written, she becomes laser-focused on what is unusual about how I use grammar and how things are spelled.

“You can’t spell that word like that!” she insists.

“But honey, it’s a made-up word that I made up myself.”

“That makes it worse, because the word it makes me think of is a bad word in the Philippines, even though it is spelled nothing like your word for butterflies thinking of ear wax.”

“Okay, I guess I have to change it then.”

Not my wife and me… but close.

But Amazon doesn’t like your relatives writing book reviews anyway. And their rules knocked out a couple of reviews I got from other writers with whom I had a deal for exchanging reviews. So, this review service was supposed to help with the problem. You read books from Pubby’s list and write a review to get points that you can put toward getting your own books reviewed. That seems both reasonable and equitable to me.

So, I started with some of the best books I have written and began getting them reviewed. So far, Snow Babies has gained four five-star reviews. Sing Sad Songs and Recipes for Gingerbread Children have each added three five-star reviews.

And it began to concern me.

It seems that some of the truly terrible writing that I was reviewing were getting overly-generous amounts of five-star reviews, along with their twos and threes. And the closer I looked at some of the comments in the reviews of my books, which were somehow read in only one or two days, were merely restatements of what other reviewers had already written. It was entirely possible that I was getting reviews like I was because writers were slapping an empty five-star on there to justify earning their points to get their own books reviewed. They weren’t actually reading the stories themselves.

I am not going to complain about mere suspicions over a five-star review. But I was looking for proof that people read and like my books. And I expect to see some lower grades on my work. That’s part of how you know things are real. Not everyone likes every good book. The best books ever written have their detractors.

That is an ordinary tractor in the background, not a detractor.

So, I went with my most recently published book, Laughing Blue. I chose the free-review-copy option and gave the reader every opportunity to dislike my book of boring old essays. And I got back a five-star review with some actual proof that the reader did read it and enjoyed it.

Now I feel better. But I would still like to see some three or four-star reviews, and I would definitely survive a one or a two. It would make me think the whole thing is a bit more honest than it has seemed at times.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be… according to Mickey.

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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night…

The title is taken directly from the poet Dylan Thomas. He was thinking about the death of his father. But, even though my father cannot last much longer either, it is my own mortality that has been weighing heavily on my mind.

I have been thinking a lot about death of late. I am now three years farther along into my retirement than I believed I would be when I retired in 2014. I honestly believed I would not live beyond 2017 with my six incurable diseases. Especially when Banco Americo sued me over medical bills and won, forcing me into bankruptcy, and leaving me to be unable to pay for insulin for my diabetes or mental health services for family members who needed them as a matter of life or death.

So, I suppose I can be forgiven for reading a lot of life-or-death stories lately, especially the kind that don’t have a happy ending.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 post-apocalyptic novel, ripped a good half to three quarters of my soul out. It is about two characters making their way along a road after some unnamed disaster has blasted away most of life on Earth, and that which is left is dying. There is no miracle nor any life-saving solution at the end of the novel. The only grace the reader is allowed is that the character who dies at the end lived for as long as was possible motivated only by love, and by dying, allowed the beloved other character to live beyond him. It is a hard, terrible story to read. But it achieves its goal. It touches your hopeless heart in ways only an award-winning novel can.

The book I just finished reading was a story I originally had to read for an Iowa State University class on Existentialism in Literature. The Nobel-Prize-winning author, Albert Camus’s book, The Stranger, is no easier to read than The Road. In fact, it may be even more depressing and dark than the first novel I mentioned. The main character lives as a stranger in a meaningless world and basically is sentenced to death by a jury because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. The story devastates your compassionate heart and shakes your belief in a benevolent God. And I read it the first time long before I was an atheist who believes in a different form of god. The story is itself cruel. But in the long view, it grants you a certain melancholy sort of peace that can only be had by coming to terms with your place in all of existence.

So, I admit it. I have been obsessing about the end of life far too much. The current pandemic that has us all on the ropes in the boxing match of life has brought me to grips with the fact that, even though the end of life is far closer to now than its beginning, living life is what still matters. I have been spending my shut-in days writing novels about life and love and laughter. I have also been talking to relatives by phone and connecting with people through social media, all of which can be done without risk of viral infection. Well… maybe a computer virus.

But I am alive now. And I am living in every manner I can still manage. For now. Because I can. And because it is the right thing to do.

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Filed under book reports, book review, good books, Paffooney, philosophy

When Readers Respond

I recently got my very first unsolicited review on a book I had written when Mr. Ted Bun, one of the leaders of the nudist writer group on Twitter gave me a five star review on Recipes for Gingerbread Children.

I was grateful and reviewed one of his books on Twitter in return.

But it was totally unsolicited. I didn’t even know any of my book promotions had penetrated such an odd corner of the internet. The story does have nudists in it, but that is not what the book is really about. Mr. Bun acknowledged that much in his review, and still liked it and called it well-written.

My first Amazon book promotion, offering the Kindle version of Snow Babies for free, produced the same kind of fruit. I started by sending a paperback copy to the girl I grew up with that I named the main character after. Valerie read the book to her grandchildren and then sent me this message;

Valerie– Hi Michael! I wanted to let you know that I finished reading your book a couple of days ago, and that I thought it was really good! You used so many colorful descriptions of the characters, that I felt like I could really picture the whole scene! I also enjoyed how you used several people’s names and surrounding towns from our past that brought back good memories. It kept my interest and made me excited to keep reading to see how things turned out! I appreciated how you ended it, too! Thanks again, so much for sharing it with me. I plan to share it with a friend of mine to read and then return to me! Do the Rowan and Belmond libraries have copies of your books? I would be happy to talk to the Belmond library about it, if you haven’t already! I will spread the word, and keep writing! Val

Me– I donated a couple of books to Rowan and one to Belmond.  But I have written a lot more since

They don’t have Snow Babies.   I am so glad you liked the book.  It is one of the best things I have ever written.

Valerie– You can be proud of your hard work! Next time I’m in the library, I will take Snow Babies with me and show them. I know they like to support local authors! 🙂

Me– Thank you for the help. I really appreciate it.

Then I find this tweet on Twitter from a fellow author who responded to my book promotion week.

She read Snow Babies and loved it and shared this review with me before she posted it on Amazon.

Headline: This book has a potential to become a classic

The story takes you to Norwall, a secluded midwestern town where people are expecting a snow blizzard to arrive in couple of hours. Among strangers coming to the town during the blizzard are four very special boys, a hobo, a bus driver, a drunken old lady, a stupid salesman, a couple of newly-weds and a lady following the four boys. Each of them, as well as the local people, has their own interesting story and their stories start to intertwine while the town gets buried in snow.

Some from the locals and the newcomers start to see white naked kids in the snow. In the course of events, they learn that those white kids are so called “snow babies”. According to what people say, those who see snow babies, are supposed to die during the blizzard.

The author has a talent for depicting situations in an impressive manner, so they can be humorous and touching at the same time.  His mature narrative style enables you to learn deeply but in a light way about individual characters and understand their motives. Interesting are the hobo´s droppings of philosophical reflections and life wisdoms from Walt Whitman’s book. Simultaneously, in connection with snow babies, the author keeps you in suspense until the end. The story is not predictable, and the ending left me smiling and absorbed in thought. 

I honestly fell in love with this book from the first page. It is like a fresh breeze compared to a number of today’s books written in similar patterns.

*****

I am amazed that people are beginning to read my books and like them… even love them. I wasn’t expecting that to happen until after I was dead. It is a good feeling that took me by surprise.

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Filed under book review, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing