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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


Bots and Spammers are routinely purged.

Currently reading

The Summer Tree
Guy Gavriel Kay
Progress: 10/383 pages
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende
History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718
Wallace Notestein

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

Sea Glass (Fortune's Rocks Quartet, #2) - Anita Shreve

Just setting this up.


Edited to add:  This is the second book in a "quartet."  I'm not sure how that differs from a series, or whether the books need to be read in some kind of order.  I have Fortune Rocks, which is apparently the first book in the quartet, but I haven't read it.  Guess I'l just have to wait and see what happens when I start reading Sea Glass.

Linda Hilton's BookLikes-opoly Game Tracking Post

Edited to add: I will be adding new info -- rolls, spaces, books, etc. -- at the TOP of this post so you don't have to scroll through.



25 May 2019 -- Finished The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden for space #6 Stay-Cation.  321 pages = $3.00



Next regular roll (I'm not sure if this is a day for a roll or not, because it's been so long!)



That puts me on Space #13

13. Read a book with sunglasses, swimsuit or other beachy items on the cover, or that has a cover that is more than 50% yellow.


While I'm on this computer, I'm going to add my two holiday week-end rolls while I'm at it, then figure out what I'm going to read!


Holiday Roll #1



Space #20:

20. Read a book that features a dog or which has a dog on the cover or that is set in an area known for its lakes or on a fictional lake.



Holiday Roll #2



Space #29:

29. Scottie dog: Roll again & hold card to play later; post a list or poll of 4 books, and ask your fellow players/followers to "fetch" you a book.


Scottie Dog roll again (If needed???)



And Scottie Dog card held in reserve:


Space #36:

36. Read a book that involves travel to Europe, or that has an image of any European city or monument on the cover, or that the letters of the title can spell the name of any European city* that I visited on my trip *Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Geneva, Rome, Florence, Venice & Barcelona.


Whew!  Now I just have to find some books. . . . 






I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm going to try to join in this game!



Starting Bank:  $20.00

Game piece: Lighthouse






Space #6 - Stay-Cation.



Time to read a library book!


UPDATE 20 May 2019 --


I have several library books that are due 5 June and can't be renewed again.  Among them is Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale.  So that's what I'm going to read!

Finished for BookLikes-opoly!

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

I'll post a full review later, but I'm just ecstatic at this point that I finished . . . ANYTHING!

This one got on today's last nerve. DNF, BBA, and all the rest

Emma Stevens and the Lord of Crime - Jeff C. Fuller

Author Jeff C. Fuller tweeted that he was unhappy with a review left for his book.  He has since blocked me and a few other people, so I didn't get a screen shot of his whiny-ass complaint, but here is the review in question:



The paperback edition has a publication date of 12 March 2019; the Kindle publication date is 14 May.  Neither edition appears to have any sales at all.  And at $9.99 for the Kindle edition, it's not difficult to see why.


The only other review for the book comes from someone named "Jeff."  I'm absolutely 100% positive this can't possibly under any circumstances be the author himself, because after all, he's got an extra, unnecessary apostrophe in the title character's name.



I did point this out to him on Twitter, so perhaps he's gone back and corrected it.  Of course, if the error has been corrected, then we know for certain that "Jeff" and "Jeff C. Fuller" are one and the same.


(rolls eyes)


I downloaded the free sample.


Now, you know what Josh Olson says:


It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.


(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)


I just want to reiterate Mr. Olson's assertion:


It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.


Yep, one sentence.  One fucking sentence.


So here's the opening sentence of Mr. Fuller's book.


It was a snowy winter night in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Fuller, Jeff C  (2019-05-13T22:58:59). The Detective Files: Emma Stevens and the Lord of Crime . Page Publishing, Inc. Kindle Edition.


Both Lord Bulwer-Lytton, author of Paul Clifford, and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, are no doubt rolling over in their graves.



One sentence.  One fucking sentence.


The text does not improve after that.  I finished the first page, and that was it.  Done. DNF.  No stars.


It's hard to believe that anyone with pretensions to authorship could fail to be familiar with the opening line of Bulwer-Lytton's novel.  Josh Olson is right: Writers read.  Even if they haven't read Paul Clifford, they know the famous opening line and the culture of parody that has grown up around it.  There's no parody in Fuller's writing.  He is very earnest -- and very religious -- and he's not a very good writer.


On the first Kindle page, there are seven direct mentions of snow, snowy, snowstorm, snowing.  Seven on one short page.  That's bad writing.


Good writing can carry a weak story, but bad writing is bad writing.





The Witches . . . then and now

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

Disclosure:  I obtained this book on loan from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I communicated with her in any way about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.


As I think I mentioned in a status report, I had read Marion Starkey's The Devil in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, so I had a fairly decent background on the history of the Salem aberration before picking up the Schiff book.  And I had read Shirley Jackson's overview decades ago as well.  If you're looking for the general history, I would recommend either of those over The Witches.


Schiff obviously did extensive -- and intensive -- research for this book, but when I got to about the 350 page mark, I skimmed ahead to about 380, then read to the end of text at 421.  The last 50 pages or so (of the actual narrative) are worth more than the rest. 


I felt the title was misleading; this is less about the witches themselves than about the men who investigated, tried, convicted, condemned, imprisoned, and executed them.


EDITED TO ADD: Over 200 people were accused of witchcraft; twenty were executed. One man was pressed to death, the others -- 14 women and five men -- were hanged.  Although women numbered among the accusers and witnesses, all judges and jury members were male, as were all the government officials and church authorities.


Schiff relies on the documentation kept by the almost obsessive Puritan bureaucracy and reconstructs the accusations and investigations.  Rather than portraying the witches themselves as individuals, she focuses on the events, most of which really didn't involve the accused persons.  And because her documentation was presented as end notes, the flipping back and forth from text to notes became too tedious, so that I lost track of where the evidence came from, and how reliable it was.  (She also had frequent footnotes that might have worked better as just parenthetical information right in the text.)


One of the more interesting insights she gave, however, came near the beginning of the book, and I wish now I had marked that spot and scanned the page so I could quote it.  The point she made was that the Puritans' belief system almost certainly contributed to both the accusers' and the victims' acceptance of witchcraft.  The belief that the individual was innately sinful, that being "saved" was up to God and knowing his determination was impossible for the mere mortal led many, especially young women, to have no trust in their own intellect and experience.  If their minister accused them of being a witch, then it must be true, even if they themselves didn't think so.


And you have to wonder just how true that may be of current religious fervor as well.


That thought ran through my mind while I continued to read, and my curiosity was well rewarded in those last 50 or so pages.


On page 379, Schiff writes about Cotton Mather, the Boston minister who is closely identified with the Salem events though he took no official part in them.


Given how insistently he positioned himself at the center of events, it is understandable that he would come to be blamed for them, when he had urged every kind of moderation, denounced spectral evidence, attended no hearing and played no prosecutorial role.  For once causality was not a burning issue; the origin of the plague of evil angels interested Mather less than its utility.  So that proper use might be made of those "stupendous and prodigious things," he had written Wonders of the Invisible World.  He regretted no page of that volume, despite the abuse the "reviled book" had earned him.  Nor did he for a moment question the judges' "unspotted fidelity."  He put his finger on something that remained invisible to him: political considerations had grossly disfigured moral ones.

At that point in the reading, and especially after something she writes in the very next paragraph, I wished Schiff herself had spent more time on the political aspect of what was going on in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1692.  One royal governor had been summarily ousted some years before, there was no effective royal charter for a number of years, and a new governor, William Phips, was appointed curing the Salem events.  Phips's appointment came with the help of Increase Mather, Cotton's father. 


What's not often mentioned in the book, and perhaps it is simply taken for granted that the reader understands this, is that these colonies were established by religious people seeking a religious community. There was not only no separation of church and government; the very idea would have been anathema to the Puritans.  They wanted no part of the established Church of England, but that didn't mean they wanted a secular authority.  Far from it.


The Mathers, father and son, were of this same mind.


So when Schiff writes in the very next paragraph,

Mather folded something more of an explanation into his 1697 life of William Phips, a fairy tale written to exonerate a disastrous administration and the men behind it.

the political ramifications were even more obvious.


On page 405, she writes,


The irony that they had come to the New World to escape an interfering civil authority was lost on the colonists, who unleashed on one another the kind of abuse they had deplored in royal officials.  So was the fact that the embrace of faith, meant to buttress the church, would tear it irrevocably apart; the wonder tales harvested to prove New England's special status undermined it in the end.  Political concerns outweighed all others, as political concerns had produced both Illustrious Providences [written in 1684 by Increase Mather] and Memorable Providences [published in 1689 by Cotton Mather].   Mather's account of the witchcraft would be inseparable form his life of Phips; the authorities believed they protected a fledgling administration.  They had constructed a kind of autoimmune disorder, deploying against themselves the very furies they so feared.  There were in 1692 no perpetrators, and no consequences.


Interestingly, Cotton Mather became a staunch advocate for smallpox vaccinations!  Throw that into the mix of 2019 news!


All of this  led me to want even more exploration/analysis of how the political became so horribly, deadly personal.


The Witches was published in October 2015, before the present catastrophe.  But Schiff draws parallels with other modern "witch hunts," suggesting the memory of Salem lingers below the surface, and not necessarily in the dark depths.  From page 413: 


In the 1780s, enemies of the Federalists accused that party of launching a "detestable and nefarious conspiracy" to restore the monarchy.  Anti-Illuminists warned of prowling Jesuits, of the Catholic serpent already coiled about, with sinister political designs.  "We must awake," they warned in 1835, "or we are lost."  The judge sentencing the Rosenbergs for espionage in 1951 termed theirs a "diabolic conspiracy to destroy a God-fearing nation."  A network of subversives, night and day vigilance, the watchtowers of the nation, and reckless cruelty returned with the 1954 McCarthy hearings.  It took very little in 1998 to turn Linda Tripp into the nosy Puritan neighbor and Ken Starr into a witch hunter.



The Witches - completed

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

But I will have a full review later today.


I only read 421 pages -- the rest is notes and index!

Is anyone up for a buddy/group read of The Handmaid's Tale?

I read it once, when it first came out in '85/86, but it's seared into my brain.  I don't own a copy and should.




P.S. It's "free" on Kindle Unlimited.

Reading progress update: I've read 305 out of 512 pages.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and various non-fiction.


I read Marion Starkey's The Devil in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, so I was curious to see if this newer examination of the Salem witch phenomenon shed a different light.  So far, it hasn't.  But I'm not done.


This book is surprisingly difficult to read.  Schiff has taken the extensive records of the investigations and trials, as well as documentation left by various participants and she has reconstructed the day-by-day events as if they really happened.  There's no distinction between observable facts and the visions or claims -- or outright lies -- reported at the time.  If Samuel Sewall recorded in his transcript of a hearing that Ann Putnam saw Rebecca Nurse sitting in the rafters of the meetinghouse, Schiff doesn't explain that Putnam claimed to see a spectral version of Nurse in the rafters while the living breathing human being Rebecca Nurse stood in the flesh before the company on the floor of the building.  While this may have been the experience of those in Salem village in 1692, I would have preferred a clearer description from the perspective of 2019.


After about 200 pages, the details of the various accusations became repetitious.

Hell's Shadows by Dean Klein: a Negative Stars Review

Hell's Shadows - Dean Klein

Disclosure:  I downloaded only the free Kindle sample after seeing this book referenced on Twitter.  I do not know the author and do not want to.  I am an author of historical romance and contemporary gothic romance and assorted non-fiction.


Here's the link to the post that got this all started.




The site has rules regarding their reviews, and this author broke the rules. 


Now, I gave a quick review to another obnoxious author's book earlier today, but that was in a genre -- vampires -- I'm not familiar with with, so I didn't really get into any kind of analysis.  The formatting and mechanics of the first few Kindle pages of Todd Davis's The Third Bride were enough to turn me off.


Dean Klein's behavior was magnitudes greater than Davis's, but it was also off my direct radar.  I was initially inclined to put my post on Twitter and let it go at that.  But nothing good ever comes from letting the BBAs get away with it, so I added the link to my timeline here.


Whether it's something in the air or the water, or a response to the current political climate, these authors' actions put a subtle pressure on both the reading and the writing community.  To a certain extent, traditionally published authors are insulated against this.  It should be noted, however, that author Natasha Tynes, who reported a transit worker eating on the job and posted the employee's picture on Twitter, has lost her publishing deal and her book already set for publication has been delayed.  Bad author behavior does have consequences.


Tynes's behavior, obviously, had nothing to do with her writing and/or publishing.  Davis and Klein, on the other hand -- along with a few others in the past few days -- have gone public with their bad writing behavior.  Davis tweeted that he believes all reviewers should give "indie" authors only five-star reviews, even if the books are bad, because it's all a matter of boosting sales.  I guess.


Anyway, when the news of Klein's behavior reached my Twitter feed, I followed up on it in part because the whole haunted house trope is right up my alley, pun intended.  I at least know something about this horror sub-genre because it morphs over into the gothic.  And though I'm not an expert on the gothic sub-genre of romance, I've read more than a little and of course I've actually written a gothic romance featuring a haunted house.


So let's get started on this review, based solely on the free Kindle sample.



At first I was kind of inclined to ignore the cover as posted on Amazon.  It's obviously the "flat" of a paperback cover, which seems kind of odd.  I mean, why wouldn't the author just post the regular cover art?  The paperback edition is shown as being published in 2012 via CreateSpace, so we know the author is essentially his own publisher.  He has control over how the Amazon listing looks.


But what I've screenshot above is from the actual Kindle download.  It's not just from the Amazon listing.  The author doesn't even know how to do his cover for his Kindle edition!




I rarely would DNF a book based on the cover. If the cover is that bad, I just wouldn't pick it up.  Maybe if the cover were stolen or something, I might comment, but bad cover art isn't one of those things that usually grabs me.  In this case, it's not the cover itself -- which is just letters on a red background anyway -- that's bad; it's the formatting of the cover that fails.


Any expectations I had for this book being even marginally readable have gone out the window.


Most of us, I think, know what a "teaser" is.  It's that page at the front of a book -- usually a paperback edition -- that contains a little snippet of the book as an enticement, a taste of what's to come.  And we know what a blurb is.  Again, it's a hint of what the book is about, setting the tone and even some expectations about the plot.  "They were strangers in a strange land, never suspecting that their forbidden love could topple an empire and turn the tide of war!"  That sort of thing.


Here's what Dean Klein has given us:



That teaser page needs a spoiler warning!


This is a book about a haunted house that itself is a serial killer.  Oh, and the wife of the couple in the house has empathic powers.  I doubt that's revealed on the first page of the novel.


But this isn't a new concept, regardless what Klein would have the reader believe.  Though I haven't read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, even a Wikipedia summary suggests that there are some similarities between Jackson's novel -- acclaimed by many as one of the best horror novels of the 20th century -- and Klein's.  The idea that the house is an active participant in the events of the story is one.  That a main character has unknown, subconscious psychic abilities is another.


Barbara Michaels used the semi-sentient house as a character in her novel Someone in the House as well.


Fortunately, author Klein doesn't stint on his teaser: there is another full page plus a bit more!  At least he lets us know he's biased.




If you read his entire response on SciFiandScary, you're not surprised at his shameless self-promotion.  But it's still rather mind-boggling, isn't it? that someone -- anyone --  really thinks this highly of himself and his work.


Is the work worthy of that self-confidence?


In a word, no.


The teaser is over-written and laden with spoilers.  The opening of the book is the same. 


It's an epilogue-as-prologue opening, in which we learn that Gil is looking back on the events of five years previously, when he and his wife Robin first saw the house.  It's now decrepit, falling apart, mouldering.  They are no longer -- apparently -- living there.  There's a strong hint that they are not living together, and perhaps she is no longer living.


The reader is also subjected to this bizarre formatting of indented block paragraphs.  An extra line between paragraphs plus the indentation is overkill, and to me it suggests the document has been formatted by someone who doesn't know what books look like.


The writing, however, is uncomfortable.  It's not exactly awkward, and there aren't a whole lot of the painful, obvious grammatical mistakes we've seen in other books.  What Klein seems not to understand is one of the basic tools of story-telling: point of view.


The book opens more or less in Gil's point of view, as he thinks back over those five years since he and Robin saw the house.  But Klein slips into a distant omniscient point of view for no real reason, as when he describes Robin's sudden illness:


Robin was completely unresponsive, the blood flow to her brain all of a sudden strangely insufficient to maintain consciousness.

Klein, Dean (2014-01-18T22:58:59). Hell's Shadows . Dean Klein. Kindle Edition.


When Robin recovers, Gil accepts her insistence that she's fine, but Klein pulls the camera back, so to speak.


If this man [Gil] had known the real reason Robin had passed out, he would have been far more than worried. He would have known visiting the ER would have accomplished nothing. Indeed, no ER in the world was equipped to diagnose the reason why this woman had suddenly passed out. Gil also had no way of knowing Robin’s fainting spell occurred on the very ground upon which people had horribly died, all the deaths related to an old ramshackle property directly across the road from them.

Klein, Dean (2014-01-18T22:58:59). Hell's Shadows . Dean Klein. Kindle Edition.


This kind of thing worked for Rod Serling, sort of, and maybe for Lemony Snicket, but it doesn't seem to be working for Dean Klein.  It falls short of direct author intrusion, such as Henry Fielding did in Tom Jones, but it's distinctly outside the story.  The net effect is a distancing of my involvement with the characters and the action.


The whole idea of a house having been witness to horrific events is hardly a new concept either.  Nor is it innovative that an ancient haunting would interfere in a marriage, as this was the premise for Howard Rigsby's The Tulip Tree (1970), which I read last year and reviewed here.


The scene then abruptly shifts to a specific locale in 1830.  Now there are new characters, but the narrative voice is still disengaged.  Klein is telling everything, never showing anything. 


I skimmed through a few more pages without ever feeling drawn into the story.  Nothing is particularly creepy because I'm not engaged with the characters and what's happening to them.  Without any explanation of how the 1830 scene is connected to Gil and Robin's story, Klein abruptly shifts back to the "present" to hand us on a silver platter Gil and Robin's personal histories.  All telling, no showing.  This is backstory that should come out in the course of the novel.


I no longer care.  At 25% of the free sample, I'm done.  This is bad writing.  So bad that by itself it does not earn even half a star.  Combined with the poor formatting -- the cover, the block-indented paragraphs -- it slides into negative territory.  Throw in the author's atrocious behavior, and this becomes irredeemable.


(Did you notice that Klein couldn't even spell the title of Stephen King's Pet Sematary correctly?)


Speaking of Stephen King, I want to end this with what I consider one of the best parts of his book On Writing:


I am approaching the heart of this book with two theses, both simple. The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments. The second is that while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (p. 142). Scribner. Kindle Edition.


There are two parts to writing fiction: story and story-telling.  No matter how good the story is, it will never ever be good enough to salvage poor story-telling.  A good story with a bad writer is still bad writing, and it's almost certainly such bad writing that not even a good editor can rescue it.  In the hands of a competent writer - one step up from a bad writer -- the story may survive, but it's still going to need help.


Stephen King acknowledges that it's possible, though not necessarily probable, that a competent writer can make the leap to good writer, but he doesn't explain why the jump from bad writer to competent one isn't even feasible.  Personally, I think there's a raw talent that can be nurtured, maybe even trained, that puts the writer automatically into the competent category.  You're there because it's natural.  It's like the kid who can shoot baskets or hit baseballs or spin on ice skates or hit high C.  You don't know how you do it, but you do.


You're never going to be a bad writer.  You start out competent.


I can't shoot baskets.  I might get one out of 25 or even 100 tries.  I was a little better at baseball/softball.  Never could spin on ice skates.  You don't want to hear me sing.  I have none of these raw talents, and no amount of coaching, training, or practice is going to make me any better.


Dean Klein is almost sure never to improve as a writer.  The native talent isn't there, but neither is the willingness to learn, to put in the hard work, to listen to critics, to improve.  He already knows it all.


He's never going to make it to zero stars.






how some authors really need to be treated




Yep, it needs editing. And formatting.

The Third Bride - Todd  Davis

Link here for my introductory post on author Todd Davis.


I downloaded only the free Kindle sample.  I think I did make it past page one of the text, but not very far. 


Why do authors not put information like title page, front matter, Table of Contents, dedication and/or acknowledgements on separate pages?  You know, like a "real" book?


Why do authors not check their formatting to make sure there are no dead spaces?


Why do authors not check their active TOC to make sure all the links work?


Why do authors demand five stars for these pieces of shit?


(I think I laughed aloud at her lips being "a mixture of worn leather, cinnamon and bergamot.")


Dear Todd Davis:  Commas are one of a writer's best and most valuable friends.  You should learn how to use them.





DNF, no stars.







And we have another one.

An "indie" author who thinks five-star reviews should be mandatory.



I couldn't help myself and replied.



Then I went to look at his book, and especially the reviews.



Ah, yes, that 1-star review . . . .







New tweets.






I had to take a break

To play with some rocks.







I'm taking the rest of the week-end off . . . to READ!!!!

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

The past couple of months have been more than a little frantic, and my reading time has been very, very limited.  I'm just so glad I was able to get in the time for Tom Jones, because it was such a delightful book.  I haven't had time for much else.


With summer weather on the horizon, however, I'm settling myself in for some serious reading over the next several months.


And of course some serious reviewing.  Not all my reviews will be glowing.


In spite of what some may think of me, I don't go out looking for bad books to review.  Nor do I look for badly behaving authors.  I'd just as soon never encounter either of those things.  Neither will I shy away from them.


A five- or four-star review doesn't need a whole lot of analysis.  The story is great, the characters are strong, the writing is seamless.  Okay, fine.


It's the half-star and one-star and no-stars books that get dissected, not only because authors (and their street teams) seem to expect justification but also because readers deserve an explanation.


I joined my first critique group back in the early 1980s, and one of the first things I learned from the experience is that a critical reading of a manuscript (and let's face it, that's what a lot of self-published authors are putting out there) provides training for the reader as well.  Often there'd be a member of the group who said something like, "I just didn't like it.  I couldn't get into it.  I don't know why or what's wrong with it, but it didn't work for me."


There are reviews here on BookLikes and on Amazon and on Goodreads and everywhere else that are variations on that theme.  Readers slog through without even realizing why the book is such a chore, a book they thought they'd enjoy.


It's the writing.  It's always the writing, because that's all there is.


I dipped into one of my almost 6,000 Kindle books last night for just a quick peek.  It's written in first person, which I don't mind too much, but the vast majority of sentences started with "I."  After the fourth or fifth in a row, that's all I could see.  I did this, I did that, I went somewhere else. I picked up this thing. I looked out a window. I opened a door.


I finished a long paragraph like that and realized I had no idea what the viewpoint character had done.  All I knew was that she had done everything!  Even a second reading didn't help, because still all those "I" sentences bombarded me.  I gave up. DNF after two pages.


Would a competent, professional, traditional editor have let writing like that get into print?  I don't know.  I don't think that kind of writing would ever have been acquired by a traditional publisher in the days before digital self-publishing.  I don't think a good critique group would have ignored that kind of weak writing.  But I don't know.


And maybe in the long run it doesn't make any difference.  Maybe all the gushing five-star reviews for crappy books are the way things are going now.  Maybe no one cares about smoothly styled sentences and evocative, dynamic description and crisp dialogue.


But I do.

Caroline Eversole is not Harry Potter

— feeling angry
Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet - B.B. Morgan

Disclosure:  I downloaded only the free sample of the Kindle edition of this book.  I do not know the author, but I have encountered her on Twitter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.


WARNING:  I am a notoriously picky reader and reviewer.  I demand good writing, good plotting, good characterization.  I demand consistency.  If I don't get those things in the book, I'm going to review accordingly.  I will always document the reasons for my review.



The Tweets are now deleted, in which this author complained of getting her first one-star review on Amazon.  (The book only has four reviews despite being published 13 October 2017.)  She was defended by a couple of people, fellow authors who had had their feelings hurt by bad reviews.


Other people warned her that whining about bad reviews was not a good idea.  She persisted.


Eventually, one of her supporters deleted a tweet, which in turn deleted my comments.  Then, later, the original author deleted her tweet as well.


And more recently, I discovered that a frequent defender of, shall we say, authors with sensitive feelings was sort of stalking anyone who defended reviewers who give negative reviews.


I read the one-star review in question.  It was clever and well-written, and it laid out the reader's reasons for the negative review.  If things had never gone beyond that, I'd have just ignored the whole situation and gone on my way after my initial remarks on Twitter.


But then it was discovered that the author herself had left negative reviews on Goodreads, including a two-star review based on a mere 10% reading.


Her manifest hypocrisy pissed me off.  I downloaded the free sample of Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet.


Now, before I go any further, let me say that initially I thought this was going to be a middle-grade or young adult fantasy along the lines of the aforementioned Harry Potter.  And I will admit that I got that impression solely from the title.  Had the title been just The Gilded Gauntlet, I would not have got that impression.


Nonetheless, I decided to read at least the opening.  (At $4.99 for 271 pages, I thought the price was a bit steep, but then again I'm poor and cheap.)


The opening didn't impress me.


“Land! Heave to, lads!”


“Prepare anchor!”


Caroline Eversole woke to the same rigorous male shouting she’d gotten used to during her four months aboard the Yawning Sea-Beast. From her quarters, the steely water sloshed against the ship’s sturdy metal hull and the room’s singular porthole. The oil lantern that hung from the ceiling, turned low for the night, swayed back and forth, yanking shadows along the wood paneled walls. The hook it clung to creaked with each gyration.

Morgan, B. B.  (2017-10-12T22:58:59). Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet . Kindle Edition.


1. I'd have thought "vigorous" a more suitable word than "rigorous" to describe the men's voices, so that set me on edge.


2. "From her quarters" is a dangling modifier.  It doesn't modify anything else in the sentence.  The water isn't sloshing "from her quarters."  She isn't looking at the water or listening to the water.


3.  How is the water sloshing all the way to the porthole?  And does she mean "single" porthole, or is there something extraordinary or exceptional about this "singular" one?


4.  "[T]urned low for the night" is a misplaced modifier.  It looks like it's modifying the ceiling, even though we know it's supposed to be modifying the lantern.  (Or was the ceiling actually turned low for the night?  This is steam punk after all.)  And is the lantern really "yanking" shadows along the walls?


Okay, so I'm still in the first real paragraph of this book and I'm thinking this writer isn't very . . . good.  I can't break myself out of seeing the individual sentences, even the individual words.  I don't see the cabin, with the lantern that sways with the gentle motion of the ship gliding through the steely (Caroline isn't looking at this water, so how does she know what it looks like?) water.  All I can see are less-than-carefully chosen words on my laptop screen.


But I persist. 


I know this is steam punk.  I know I'm going to get a mix of technology and not.  But what I'm getting already is a confused impression of a sailing ship sloshing and swaying even thought it's powered by pipes and steam.  Again, I'm being pulled out of the reality of the book by careless writing.


But I persist.


Caroline is twenty-five, has gone on this voyage with her parents.  The voyage has been four months long: two months at sea, one month on a beach vacation, two months at sea back to home.  Here's where I got confused again.  Her father is a merchant, so he dropped Caroline and her mother off at this beach place for a month, then he spent the month trading.  How come, if the ship was steam-powered, it took two months to get to the exotic Barious Islands, but in a single month he could get to the northern archipelago to do his trading?  Did he also do some trading on the voyage out and again on the voyage back?


It's just not working for me.  It's just not.


The mechanics keep intruding, too.


Caroline laughed and returned to her slouched posture.


“I suppose that won’t help me find a husband.”


Her mother lightly laughed, saying, “Not one that you’d want.”


Both women laughed.

Morgan, B. B.  (2017-10-12T22:58:59). Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet . Kindle Edition.

Caroline had also laughed on the previous page.


Her father's entrance made me wince.


The heavy wooden door to the cabin opened and Captain Eversole entered. He wore his nice red coat with the Eversole family crest over the right breast. While at sea, he dressed like the crew, dirty shirts and sea-sprayed air, but he dressed like a captain for strangers.

Morgan, B. B.  (2017-10-12T22:58:59). Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet . Kindle Edition.


I'm assuming the author meant "sea-sprayed hair" but I'm not sure.


I'm not sure what she means by a "nice" red coat or why he wore it for strangers.  Are his wife and daughter strangers?


I couldn't persist any more.




— feeling question

Okay, I think I figured it out.  I'm not sure, but I think I did.


And I posted my first piece.  It's long.  Too long?  I have no clue.




It's available to the public, so you don't have to sign up or subscribe or anything.  Or at least that's how I intended to publish it.


To be honest, I feel guilty even having a subscriber tier.  I'm used to just putting my stuff out there for free, like here on BookLikes.  But the truth is that I'm not independently wealthy -- and I'd feel guilty about that if I were -- and I need a little bit of income.


So there it is.