Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

19
Jun
13

Crashing the Shortbus

Yup, killed to death.

Yup, killed to death.

I felt the tires slip upon the tarmac and wheel go wild in my hands. Sliding noisily, the shortbus missed its turn and elbowed around a tree, its driver flung like bloody meat through the windshield. There were no survivors.

What happened? Was it a banana peel? No, it was a royalties check. I won’t say how bad the royalties check was, but it was awful. It was bad enough that I would intentionally drive my bus into a tree to collect the insurance money––but there is a minor setback. Shortbus drivers are uninsured.

What will I do now that my shortbus is a mangled wreck? Walk away? Some friends suggest I self-publish my next book. Take control over pricing, and be able to offer my third and greatest book to readers for free. One of my author friends has done well with self-publishing—comparative to my awful royalties check.

soon

Being a fan of Jesus, I’m going to tell a Shortbus style parable. Here you go…

One upon a time there was a telemetry technician who worked in a hospital. He knew how to interpret cardiac rhythms so as to help medical teams quickly respond to critically ill patients and save lives. He was very attentive, and fairly astute at determining dangerous heart changes from non-dangerous rhythms.

But one ICU manager didn’t like how this technician sat around watching computer screens all day. She didn’t think watching over sick, critically ill patients was enough work for the tech. So, she and her micro-managing charge nurse conspired against the tech who watched over the sick and the dying. Although it wasn’t his duty, they made him transfer doctors’ orders to nursing charts. A duty that averted the telemetry technician’s focus from dangerous and sometimes fatal heart rhythms to charting medicines he wasn’t educated in the use of, or proper dosing. The ICU manager said, “You’ll figure it out.”

One day, while the telemetry tech was trying to read a doctor’s shitty scribble, a patient went into a fatal cardiac rhythm—and died. The tech was blamed for not doing his job—and fired. The end.

Karma

Nice parable, aye? It might be true, or maybe not. Jesus was never clear, so why should I be?

The point is this, I am a writer. I am not a publisher. Some people might have two heads and with their two heads be good at wearing two hats, but I have no desire to slack my primary duty to make way for one I’m not educated to perform. It is hard enough writing a book. Then selling that book, and then marketing that book. I have no interest in being the publisher too.

The shortbus is crashed, but there are other facets of my writing to be found for free.

Here is my fantasy fiction hobby blog—http://skyrimprodigy.wordpress.com/

Here is my professional webpage—http://jakeelliotfiction.com/

Dead Cupid

26
Jan
13

Sun Bleached Winter

D. Robert Grixti is an up and coming author from Australia, and this is a review of his debut novella. I’m dropping the normal Shortbus attitude for this review. I’ve posted a nearly identical review on my other site, and decided that some of you here would probably appreciate this book.

Here is an excerpt from Sun Bleached Winter,

Night has fallen. We’re eating dried biscuits by the light of the campfire. The flames glow weakly, dimly. Dying. Flakes of snow drift down from the sky and threaten to bury everything under a blanket of white. Nothing can live here.–

Railway

Atmosphere––Mr. Grixti does it very well. The bleak world inhabited by narrator Lionel and his sister Claire has been crispy fried by nuclear war. A blanket of smoke, dirt, and clouds blot the sun’s light, embracing every day in fallout winter. Lionel and Claire are the central characters in the story, but things spice up with the introduction of Jessica, a gun toting firecracker wearing clean clothes. Lionel is conscripted to do a dirty job with Jessica, and if he survives, he’ll earn entry into New City for himself and Claire.

Expertly done, setting was consistently used to keep the weight of doom and uncertainty lingering with every turn of the page. Here is another tease,

I stay awake, staring into the blackness, and thinking about what tomorrow may bring. What future is there for us, waiting for us, perhaps mocking us, beyond the void of time? Is it a good one, or a bad one? I find myself struggling to wonder how those terms can still have meaning, in a world where human life is reduced to something abstract, something indefinable and killing can be so easily justified in the name of survival. There can’t be such things as good or bad in a place where everything is grey. People will continue to do what they have to do, and thus the only future that awaits us is one that’s as bleak as the present.–

Irony would be another great descriptor for Sun Bleached Winter. As Lionel and his sister struggle to survive in the wastelands, they also struggle to maintain the humanity that has been burned from the world. Is New City going to be a budding society, or just the shadow of what once was?

Is it medicine that makes a society? Labor? Can it be defined as protection from the marauding hordes of cannibals? Does civilization depend upon which side of the gun you are standing? Beware of the dogs––the marauders sometimes use them to corner their quarry.

It growls once more, and then unleashes a spine chilling howl, its hind legs tensing behind it, preparing to pounce forward and take its prey. Panicked, I feel through the snow beside me with my left hand, praying that I’ll find the cold, familiar shape of the revolver waiting for me. The dog starts barking furiously and then it charges, running at me with lightning speed. I close my eyes, preparing for the sharp fangs to drill into my face, when I finally feel the grip of the handgun, already starting to sink into the deep snow.–

Action is quite challenging to write. For the most part, I felt D. Robert Grixti’s execution of action was done with great agility as a first time author. As you saw, that last passage offered fantastic visualization. Most of the action in Sun Bleached Winter held tension, but in a few instances it faltered a little. Nothing to fret over, as Mr. Grixti evolves as a writer, those hiccups will pass.

For the most part the editing was solid. There were a few words inserted that weren’t quite right. I found “Illegible” where it should have been “Unintelligible,” there was one or two other not-quite-correct words placed throughout the text.

Although I’d smiled at the end of the last page, fully appreciating this story’s irony, I felt there were enough instances of grief to drive anyone to the one character’s final decisions. I felt the hallucinations seemed a little overkill, but as we’ve seen here on the Shortbus, I’ve been very wrong before, and I promise I’ll be wrong again, maybe even here.

All in all, I enjoyed this story and hope others do to. Sun Bleached Winter is a quick, fresh read, artistically written well enough to start fun dialogue between readers.

For the record—I’d received a PDF copy from this author with the expectation of a balanced review.

08
Jan
13

The Shortbus Post – News from the Front Line

The Shortbus limps along. This is a strange limbo I am in. I’ve gone from revolutionary—to salesman. I swear the Mayans did it.

You know, fighting the powers of evil was an awesome career path—back when our days were numbered. I realize now that time never stops, it just keeps on moving on. I say screw fighting evil, that’s another task we should lay upon Gen Y. Sorry guys, I’m gonna pass the buck to you and go get rich—thanks for the love.

What a sell-out. – Yup – but first, a bad review.

An e-book reviewer who has a modest amount of clout is about to give my second novel a moderate review. I have respect for this critic, I’d received a very balanced review for my first book and I like the reviewer’s honesty. I didn’t ask him to read my book for fluff and praise, but for his opinion––and he doesn’t like the sequel.

Well, “dammit.”

Hey-hey-hey! that's MY book your trashing!!

Hey-hey-hey! that’s MY book your trashing!!

I haven’t seen the full report yet, but he was kind enough to fire a warning shot over the bow of my ship. I’m now bracing for impact. What makes this very confusing is he’s the fourth reviewer to come back out of a total of six. The first three reviews were impressively complimentary, and the other two reviews are from people who vanished into thin air. Flakes, I think that’s what they are called, but I’m not sure. Perhaps late bloomers.

So the Shortbus rolls on, limping along and trying to get somewhere other than over the side of “THE FISCAL CLIFF.” Damn you dead Mayans! This is all your fault!

My publicist is relaxed and super cool, he says, “We’ll pick out all the good stuff and leave the rest on the side of the road,” or something sort of like that, but I actually chuckle inside. This coming review is my Karma. If I didn’t talk so much smack while driving the Shortbus, my fiction would be praised by all as the greatest stories ever to be written. People would throw rose petals and lay palm fronds at my feet so I’d never be dirtied by touching the ground—or, back to reality, maybe not everyone will love my books as I do.

Here is a link to my books page on my central webpage.

Here is a link to Free Samplings of my style of fiction writing.

24
Dec
12

Merry Christmas

For real, no joke…Merry Christmas.

 

 

14
Dec
12

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit2

JRR Tolkien wrote a classic book called The Hobbit in the late 1930’s. Peter Jackson did not. Peter doesn’t even write fantasy fiction for a living––I do––but he directs movies. I know from experience that when a writer writes a book, ALL the pieces are important. When making a movie, it must be dificult to decide what gets cut, and what stays in. Although, when the red carpet is rolled out by a movie studio with a generous offering of seven plus hours of celluloid to show that story, I don’t know why one would deviate from the full story.

As loyal fans of Tolkien’s books, we know sometimes things get lost in translation from book to movie. Peter Jackson did a fantastic job with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We understood things need to be moved sometimes for consistency. Those of us who read the books know at the end of The Two Towers, Shelob the spider has ensnared Frodo, and Sam is like “WTF!” The End.

We, the loyal fans of Tolkien grasp it isn’t cool to end a movie like that—ending on a sour note and leaving everyone hanging for another year. It is anticipated a couple things might get moved around in the change of venue. It is difficult to make the transition from the intended art of reading, to the visual form of film.

book bridge

As a fan of the book, I have a couple questions about the Hobbit movie. What does everyone think about adding mountains that turn into boulder-people that have fist-fights with other rock-folk while dwarves hang from their knees? Maybe we could add some dialogue with a redneck accent, “Dis ain’t no giant mountain! Dis is a Mountain-Giant!”

Please, calm down. Those exact words were not used in the movie, but they could have been. The fist-fighting rock-people with dwarves hanging on their knees did happen in the movie. I don’t remember this part from the book.

What else could we do to spice up the movie? Add a one-armed albino orc who looks like Voldemort to chase the group of dwarves around. He can say something really profound like, “I hate you, I really, really hate you little dwarfs!”

We might not think to add a brown cloaked wizard riding a sleigh with a team of rabbits to improve JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece––but Peter Jackson did.

The Hobbit

A note to the director—we did not pay $12 per ticket to see your movie. We paid $12 a seat to see JRR Tolkien’s story transformed into visual art by you. I cannot speak for everybody, but my money isn’t easy to make anymore. $12 gets me a ¼ tank of gas.

I rated Tolkien’s book The Hobbit 4/5 stars on Goodreads. After what I saw today, I’d give the movie 2/5 stars. The movie wasn’t awful, but very disappointing. It wasn’t all wrong, but the parts that were done correctly are shrouded by everything that is wrong. This is why people think fantasy fiction is gay. Mister Jackson ruined what could have been another classic added to his name. This is parallel to how the ape-romance scene on the frozen lake in King Kong ruined the total greatness of that movie.

I’m sorry Bilbo Baggins, your day did not shine.

I’ll be adding a link to C-Jane’s kinder review of both book and movie right here.  http://beckyajohnson.net/2012/12/14/the-hobbit/




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