My apologies if this review seems disjointed. For various reasons it has been subjected to several abrupt interruptions, and so some readers may have seen "to be continued." I hope this fourth attempt will finish it.
Disclaimer: Under no circumstances would I pay $9.95 for a digital book by a newly published* writer in a genre** I never otherwise read. This review is therefore based solely on the free Kindle sample. I do not expect the author to provide me with a free copy, and I will not buy it. If she's unhappy that I'm reviewing based on the sample, she will need to take her complaints to the administrators of GoodReads, as I believe I am fully within my rights as a member of this site to review on the basis of having read less than the entire book.
The asking price on The Eyes of $9.95 is higher than the price many established, best-selling writers put on their digital books. If Ms. Thomas had done some research on the market, I think she would recognize that her book is not likely to sell well at that price. If she is trying to compare her work to other very popular erotica novels, she should remember that the most popular of them had built up a substantial fan base as free fan fiction before the author took it to for-profit commercial success.
If Ms. Thomas's asking price was set by her "publisher," then perhaps they have not done sufficient research. Or perhaps they have no incentive to sell the book.
*PublishAmerica is listed as the publisher. They have what might be called a less than stellar reputation.
** I do not read erotica, and I am very uncomfortable reading about abusive relationships. A book that purports to tell a story that is a combination of the two would normally not catch my notice at all and if it did, I would not be inclined even to look at the smallest sample.
Because of the author's very public behavior in response to those readers who placed her book on GoodReads on shelves of their own choosing and their own naming but which Ms. Thomas found somehow disagreeable to her, this book came to my notice. Even when informed that she was "spamming" with her comments, and even after she issued a public apology for having done so, she continued. Had she not been so persistent in her unsolicited responses to readers, I would never have noticed or paid any attention to her book, never even considered reading a single page of it. But I did. This review is the result.
Books are not written without contexts. Authors bring their personal experiences, beliefs, and perspectives to what they write, and that's to be expected. Most of the time, the author's context is silent and invisible, woven so subtly into the story that all the reader is left with is the text itself.
The reader, of course, also brings her own context to the reading. That context certainly includes her personal reading preferences, but also her previous reading, her educational background, her family life, her marital status, everything about her.
When the author intrudes her context into the reader's the way Ms. Thomas has, it is well nigh impossible for the reader to review the work in question without that intrusion having some effect.
And that is the context in which I began to read the free Kindle sample of The Eyes.
I skimmed over the several pages of gushing dedications. After all, the sample is supposed to be a sample of the book. If I like the sample enough to buy the whole book, then I might be interested in who all of Thomas's family members and best friends are, but first all I want to do is determine if the writing*** and story quality are sufficient to engage my interest. When the author intrudes her personal perspective into the product like this, I find myself beginning to feel very uncomfortable, as though the reading experience is no longer mine alone but something I'm being forced to share with the author. I feel as if she's telling me how I'm expected to read her book, as if she's telling me there's only one way to read it and that's her way.
The book begins with a "Prologue" of a woman of unspecified age agonizing over an impending meeting with a man. I didn't feel that it served the usual purpose of a prologue, which is to introduce background events that set the story's foundation. This seemed more like the opening to the story. But each writer is entitled to her own structure, so I began reading the actual text.
Very early, I recognized that the author has a less than expert command of the English language. The first paragraph contains a long and awkward sentence that left its meaning unclear even after a second reading. Instead of being drawn instantly into the story, I had to reread that sentence and restructure it in my own mind until I had a clearer understanding of what was going on.
Regardless how wonderful a story is, the reader can't appreciate it if she can't understand it. Missing or misplaced commas, missing pronoun antecedents, awkward syntax all contributed to my not being able to sink into the story. For example, still from the Prologue:
Pulling into the car park, her mind and body in turmoil, Amy reached for her mobile phone.
‘I’m outside babe. x’ Her hand hovered over the send button debating whether to press it or not as last minute doubts flooded through her brain.
Thomas, Eve. The Eyes (Kindle Locations 63-65). . Kindle Edition.
I didn't know if the phone had rung and that's why Amy was reaching for it. At first I thought the message was one she had received, but then it appeared she was going to send it. When had she written it? Had I missed something? I read the passage two or three times before I concluded. . . I still didn't know. I didn't know if "x" referred to the sender, to Amy, or to something else. I couldn't figure out what "outside" meant. Was it that Amy had arrived outside their meeting place? Was it that the person she was meeting was outside and waiting for her?
While Amy's uncertainty heightened curiosity about what she was doing and why she was doing it and why she felt so torn between doing and not doing, her anguish became exaggerated at the end of the Prologue. Back and forth, back and forth, through just two short pages, until she's "fighting back the nausea as the waves of sickness threatened to overtake her." But it's clear that this is not a spur of the moment event; the assignation has been planned and preceded by text messages and some kind of relationship. I felt as if Amy were already making excuses for herself, and I found myself not liking her.
But I also felt uncomfortable with the author's lack of basic writing skill. Again, there are problems with commas, and the punctuation of dialogue isn't correct. As I turned the Kindle page and began to read Chapter One, all these problems continued.
***Remember when I said I read the sample to determine if the writing and story quality are sufficient for me to continue? Fact: It's impossible to judge the quality of the story -- the plot, the character motivations, the internal and external conflicts, etc. -- without reading the whole book. I'm willing to try a well-written book and take the risk that the story will suck, or that the ending will be disappointing, or that halfway through I'll lose interest.
But I can't read poorly written prose. I've been a writer too long and read too many well written books to waste my time on something that makes me reach for a red pen every second line. When writers make excuses for their lack of skill (which is very different from talent) with the language, I tend to doubt their sincerity about their desire to tell their story. Poorly written books seem, to me at least, to be attempts to just get the product out there and hope it sells.
The Eyes is just not well written. I was able to determine that within the first few sentences, and reading the first few pages changed nothing about my opinion. It's so poorly written that I doubt the author's ability to construct the kind of story I'd find interesting with the kind of characters I'd find interesting. Furthermore, I don't care to waste my time slogging through this sloppy writing in search of that story.
There is a valid question underlying that assertion: Why, if I know I don't like erotica and books about abusive relationships, why did I go ahead and even read the sample of this book?
Because the author bullied me into it.
And no, there is no pun intended, no joke, no sarcasm.
The author sent out message after message after message, to people she did not know, and badgered them about domestic violence. She insisted everyone -- everyone -- should be concerned about spousal abuse. She insisted that an unspecified portion of her profits would be donated to organizations dedicated to supporting and helping victims of domestic abuse, and she did it in such a way as to imply that anyone who didn't support her, who didn't buy her book, who had anything negative to say about her book was a supporter of abuse.
And yet she herself was the abuser in this instance. She was invading the privacy of readers, challenging their personal and private right to "shelf" their books the way they wanted to. She admitted she had been "spamming" the various forums, and begged forgiveness for her mistakes, but she continued to hound the readers.
I've been on the receiving end of abuse. Violence? No. Abuse, yes. I'm a survivor, and I don't get all worked up about it very often, but I am highly sympathetic to those who do. Ms. Thomas's constant harangues, her empty apologies, all seemed designed to guilt people into buying her book. That's bullying.
And I know it's bullying, subtle and without violence though it may be, because that's how I was bullied.
Rather than ever thanking any of the readers who put her book on their to-read shelves, Ms. Thomas only responded to those who had shelved it as "do-not-read" or some other negative label. Even after being asked not to come into their space, to stop commenting on their non-reviews, Ms. Thomas continued, in a pattern of behavior that suggested there was something wrong with what they were doing.
Yes, Ms. Thomas, I am accusing you of bullying. I, who am on the "Scary Run Fast" sidebar of the site you insisted on promoting before you even knew what it was, I am accusing you of bullying. You repeatedly and publicly intimated that anyone who didn't buy your book, who didn't react favorably to your book, who shelved your book as "shitlist" or "niamy," was not supporting victims/survivors of domestic violence. You called them out by name in your blog, you accused them of launching a "witch hunt" against you.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
But like some bullies and abusers, Ms. Thomas, you may not be even be capable of recognizing the abuse in your own actions. You may be so focused on yourself, on your own wants and needs, that you are completely oblivious to the wants, needs, preferences, even the privacy rights of anyone else.
I am not going to read your book, Ms. Thomas. I am not going to buy it, and I am not going to recommend it. I will not be guilted into supporting you no matter what.
I will not be bullied. I am not an enabler of bullies.