Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bad Money - Carl Hiaasen

I know that I promised to find novels by lesser-known authors. And I assure you that I will. Still, after my last venture into the unknown, I decided to delve into the past. And to that end, I found a review that I wrote a while back—Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey. I want to share that review with you. 

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”—Erma Bombeck.

     I might add to Erma Bombeck’s quote; there’s a thin line between funny and ghastly. Carl Hiaasen doesn’t balance carefully between satire and black humor in the opening paragraphs of this book. He jumps feet first into a situational comedy. The author so skillfully crafts James Mayberry’s character that his arrogance and shamelessness, combine with a bold audacity to leave no doubt in the reader’s mind about this character’s true nature.

     What should be shockingly abhorrent to the reader is adroitly twisted by Hiaasen into a macabre, cynical sort of humor. The reader is left to experience both laughter and discomfort simultaneously. 

     The writing is first-rate; however, I did find it distracting when every reference to the Mayberry character included both his first and last name. After the character’s introduction, I think further references to him could have been with his first name only. This is a small criticism on the whole. 

     I liked that the protagonist, Andrew Yancy, isn’t perfect. Far from it. For me, that makes the character more believable, and I found him quite colorful besides.

     I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I will be looking for another book by this author.

     I end this review with another quote. “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”—E.E. Cummings.

The time I spent reading Bad Monkey was not time misspent.

Shelley Lee Riley - Author of Into Madness, Book one in the Born From Stone Saga, and the memoir Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure

Friday, January 8, 2021

Hush Hush - by Becca Fitzpatrick

I said that I would not review a bad book. I said it right here on this blog. Still, I couldn't resist. So here goes.

While checking out what avid readers are saying on the Facebook group YA Fantasy Addicts, I came across several gushing recommendations for Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. 

I checked it out on Amazon, and I found that eighty-six percent of the more than 2200 reviews rated it four stars or higher. Well, all right then, rubbing my hands together, I settled in for a fun read. 

Page after page, I kept waiting for the fun to begin. Unfortunately, I was destined to be disappointed. Even after I'd realized I was bored, I persevered through one unrealistic scene after another. The boys rolling around on the filthy pool room floor, play fighting. Really? Just so we can rip Patch's shirt to reveal a clue? A v-shape scar on his back. Oh, I get it. He must have had his wings cut off. Right? I kept reading. I mean, really, with twenty-two hundred reviews? It's got to get better.

So at the point when our less than brilliant protagonist is peeling off her puffy cold-weather coat in freezing weather and using it as payment for directions from a bag lady. I say, are you kidding me? Enough. End of transmission. There are too many good books waiting to be read.

Bottom line, silly, boring, and dull. How do books like this get so many five star reviews? 

Shelley Lee Riley - Author of Into Madness Book One of the Born From Stone Saga and Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure, a memoir about a horse with two names.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Identity Revealed - J.M. Butler

This entry within the vast landscape of fantasy offerings has left me in a bit of a quandary. To read or not to read book two. 

Let’s start with why I was attracted to this book. It wasn’t the ebook cover. However, I do like the paperback cover.  Still, the cover art did give me insight into what kind of story I would be reading. There’s a pretty, adult woman, dressed in adventurous looking clothes. She’s holding a glowing orb, and dragons are frolicking in the background. So...fantasy. I like fantasy.

What really drew me to the look inside feature was the fact that there were only thirty-five ratings. Remember, I said I would try to ferret out a good read from those titles buried within the impenetrable jungle of Amazon listings. 

Once inside, I found the first line engaging. “Laughter sounded in the distance, breaking the quiet summer afternoon.” Now granted, if I’d been writing this line, I would have added ‘of the’ before the word summer, and thus breaking the quiet, rather than the summer afternoon.  

Still, I understood what the writer meant when she began writing the scene, and the sentence made me curious about what caused the laughter. So I read on.

As you know, I’m not particularly eager to write spoilers, so let’s start with a small section from the marketing blurb. “Cursed and isolated, young princess Amelia lives with one goal: to rescue her people from an invading army. Her family is captured, the royal court slaughtered, and her people imprisoned, but she’s trained night and day to defeat the army’s shapeshifting warlord, Naatos. There’s only one problem: if she ever kills someone, she will die.”

Well, that’s intriguing. She’ll die if she kills? And yet, she has to defeat a shapeshifting warlord. What kind of skills do you need to accomplish this? So I read on.

I finished the book. Did I like it? Hmmm? I finished it.  

Among other things I dislike, and will always make me uncomfortable, are plots that attempt to manipulate me into thinking that killing is acceptable as long as it furthers the goal. In this case, world domination for the good of the minions they plan to conquer. I also find unpronounceable names tend to stop me and drop me out of the story. This book is full of them.

There were also some interesting references to sex, though there were no sexual acts in this book, like the word ‘feshatoon.’ Which was cringe-worthy for me. So, if you're expecting descriptive episodes of 'feshatooning,' you'll need to look elsewhere. 

Character development was spotty. Still, when the author got it right, it really worked. In particular, WroOth is charming, funny, and loyal. Then there is AaQar, who is circumspect and reasonable as he deals with his deeply tortured soul. And Naatos is simply unredeemable. 

The unfortunate part is that the main protagonist is a relatively bland, vanilla character. 

In conclusion, while there were issues, which other reviewers have pointed out. . . I finished the book! And in my opinion, this book should have been marketed as a young adult fantasy romance. It is not high fantasy by any stretch of the imagination. It might have received more attention if it had been listed as YA.

I think this author has real talent and should get better as she continues to write. Her prose is exuberant, like a child skipping when they could walk. Her enthusiasm is as evident as if a smile had been inscribed onto the page.

So, in answer to my conundrum? Should I read the second book? Yes, I will read the second book. In fact, I’ve already started it, and I’m glad I did. 

Pre-posting update—I couldn’t finish the series. Naatoss, the main love interest, could easily be compared to Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre films. 

I’m sorry, at least for me, even in a hate to love plot line, the love interest cannot be irredeemable. Even though there is a secondary love interest in the character, Shon, Amelia still begins to have feelings for Naatos, even when he's covered in blood following a session of slaughtering. 

Shelley Lee Riley, author of: The debut YA fantasy novel Into Madness, Book One of the Born From Stone Saga. The memoir, Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Plucked From Obscurity

As most Indie authors know, getting your books before the reader who's looking for the type of book you've written is challenging, if not impossible. 

I wouldn't know where to begin to explain how the Amazon search algorithms work. But let's suppose an author's debut fantasy novel is listed somewhere within fifty-thousand listings that are spread over four-hundred pages of a targeted Amazon search. In that case, the book's thumbnail's chances of being seen by the casual reader searching within a specific genre are not good. Have you ever tried to get past page twenty-six in the results?

But I know of one thing that does help if only marginally, reader reviews. With the odds so stacked against the Indie author from the start, even if someone stumbles across a little-known debut novel, a small number of reviews will suggest there must be a reason, and they'll move on. 

So, I asked myself, why am I reviewing the books that already have hundreds, even thousands of reviews? Those authors don't need my review. Especially since they probably already have an agent, a big publishing house and all the apparatus Amazon has to offer behind them. Now that's not saying there aren't Indie authors who have enjoyed success. Still, they tend to be the exception.

There are many reasons why people turn to a book. To gain knowledge, escape reality, relax, spiritual enrichment, entertainment, and more. I heard an interesting line in a movie I recently watched. One character was stunned that the other didn't like to read. And what she said went more or less like this; "How could you pass up the opportunity to live a thousand lives?" I would add to that, "and miss out on untold adventures."

Therefore, I have determined to find a few of those gems buried so deep within the search results they live in a constant state of obscurity. And then I will sift through them and see if I can find something I want to read all the way through to the very last page. Finally, if worthy, I will review it. I am not going to read nor review books that don't engage me immediately. 

I will start with the cover and why it attracted me to look inside. Next, I will discuss the opening line, arguably the most important thing to keep me reading.  

And finally, in some cases, I will try to contact the author and ask them if they are willing to answer a few questions. 

Shelley Lee Riley - Author of the debut fantasy novel; Into Madness Book One in the Born From Stone Saga. And the memoir; Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure

Thursday, December 17, 2020

OBSIDIAN — (A Lux Novel-Book One) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Following my not so favorable review of Shadows, the prequel to the Lux Series, and as I mentioned in my review, I didn't care for it. Still, as I read the sneak peek of Obsidian, I liked what I saw, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Suffice it to say, if you liked Twilight, you are going to like Obsidian. Same...well, similar enough to draw comparisons. A teenage girl is moved to a small town by her parent. The hot guy next door turns out not to be just a hot guy. Oh boy, he is so much more than eye candy.

Still, there are differences. Keeping in mind this story was written for a particular age group. In my opinion, you can forgive the author for its lack of sophistication. 

I don't think the book is worth going into a lot of detail, so I'll just say I liked it, and I don't care if it has similarities to Twilight. I finished it, and not always something I do with every book I pick up. Added to that, I was encouraged enough to read the next book in the series. So it couldn't have been that bad, right?

Shelley Lee Riley - Author of Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure and the debut fantasy novel - Into Madness.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Shadows—A Lux Novel by Jennifer Armentrout

     I like YA, and I have recently published a debut novel in this genre. So when I was encouraged to read this well-received series, I felt I should start with the ‘Shadows’ novella, a prequel of sorts. The author penned it to introduce Dawson and Bethany, two characters that affect the book’s plot. Her intent is clear. She wants ‘Shadows’ to replace the tedious back story in Obsidian, the first book in her Lux series. 

     I get it. Unfortunately, I was not too fond of it. It went on and on about how beautiful Dawson and Bethany found each other. That there was a certain amount of insecurity in finding each other so attractive. Then there were the secrets. And how these secrets could affect their budding relationship in a negative way. Not that there were any gargoyles hidden in Bethany’s closet just waiting to be revealed. Bethany is pretty but not gorgeous, and she is a good artist. But other than Dawson telling his siblings that she’s a “really good” painter, there is nothing inserted to make us find this talent of hers remarkable. Dawson has green eyes, dark hair, has great abs, is not as good a fighter as his brother, and other than the fact he’s a glowing alien…Yawn! 

     I think the fundamental problem is there’s no real plot. There were no shared obstacles to overcome, other than the whole relationship-building process. There wasn’t a story arc to speak of, characters are introduced, and then there’s a repetitive narrative of Bethany and Dawson getting to know each other. This bonding goes on and on for the largest part of the book. The action picks up when the author throws Bethany off a cliff, followed by the horror-struck Dawson breathing new life into Bethany. But, from the cliff to the end of the story barely covers a heartbeat, just a few page fillers. And in a rushed together, lightly narrated confrontation with the story’s antagonists, she leaves us to believe Bethany and Dawson have both died. 

     Ah, but I don’t believe it, and worse, at this point, I don’t really care if they died. I can cry over someone losing their pet goldfish, and yet I felt nothing after this scene. Ms. Armentrout never managed to get me to care about these two vanilla characters. The writing wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good either, and it needed another edit. There were just a few awkward sentences throughout. They did hang me up. 

     So I guess that spells doom, as far as me buying the next book in the series...right? Wrong! Included with my e-book version was a preview chapter of Obsidian. I wasn’t going to read it; I felt those few minutes of my life could be better spent walking my dog, Nigel. And then I thought, what the hey, after all, I did pay for the whole thing. And besides, it was too hot out for a walk. So I read it. OMG! I Loved it! I went to Amazon to see if the preview pages were longer, and it was. Two chapters were in the preview. I loved them! I was cranky when I couldn’t read the next page. I wanted it now, and I wanted to keep reading. I tried the library. Somebody had checked it out. I went to the half priced book store. They didn’t have it. So I bought the e-book version. I will let you know if the rest of the book is as engaging as the first two chapters were. 

     In conclusion, I can’t believe the same author wrote both Shadows and Obsidian. If my experience gives a clue, I would say Shadows is not going to encourage people to read the series, just the opposite. Readers who have already read and loved the series will like it no matter what, as loyal fans tend to be more forgiving...at least for a while. 

Take care and keep reading. Remember, you're never alone if you have a good book to keep you company. Shelley Lee Riley

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

November 17, 2020

Today I'm excited to report that the author George Cramer has posted an interview with me on his blog. So if you're interested in a little insight as to what came after the Triple Crown for me, check it out at https://gdcramer.com/2020/11/17/shelley-lee-riley-first-a-racehorse-trainer-owner-now-author/