Just finished the review for Ghouls of the Miskatonic. I have to say, I was disappointed. Too many characters, too many plot points left dangling, not enough characterization or exposition. Oh well. The next book I am going to review looks to be a five star (I’m about halfway through)–Cemetery Club by J.G. Faherty. I’ll let you know if it fails me in the end. Here’s the review for Ghouls of the Miskatonic.
Category Archives: My Reviews
Say what you will about fans of Verland: The Transformation. They are nothing if not committed. Yesterday I posted a very positive review of Verland. It’s a good book, and if you are a fan of vampires that don’t sparkle, I recommend you check it out. In my post about the review, I mentioned my concern about the overly enthusiastic nature of the Amazon reviews for the book. In no time at all, angry Verland fans were complaining that I had accused them of only writing positive reviews because they were friends of the author. Of course, I didn’t say that. I said this:
One thing I did not mention in my review that troubles me about Verland is the over-the-top reviews you’ll find on Amazon. It’s as if the author had every friend she has write the most glowing reviews possible. Seriously, check it out. You would think the book was the new Great Gatsby or Ulysses. It’s unfortunate. I think Verland can stand on its own without any trouble, and I think that most people will see those reviews and think they are being sold a bill of goods. But hey, maybe it’s just me.
Now, maybe I could have been more clear (wouldn’t be the first time), but my intention was not to say that the author was actually having friends write over the top reviews. My point was that the reviews are so glowing that one might think that was the case. It’s all about perception, and fake reviews are a real problem. Here’s a New York Times article on it. People are careful with their money these days, and if they question the legitimacy of positive reviews, they may come to the conclusion that the book itself is not very good. My novel, That Which Should Not Be, has also been very positively reviewed on Amazon, and let me assure you, some people questioned whether the book was really as good as people said. One guy literally emailed every person who had written a positive review of the book and asked them if I had paid for the reviews. The fact is, every author has some over the top reviews, and as much as we appreciate them, we also cringe a little bit when they show up. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to that, but frankly, it’s hard to trust what you read on the internet.
Honestly, I found it a bit curious that people reacted as quickly and forcefully as they did to my initial post. I wasn’t talking about all the reviews, and the whole thing has a “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” vibe to it. Like I said, people are apparently passionate about this book.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to post portions of four of the reviews. I’m not accusing the authors of these reviews of fabricating them. I’m simply putting them out there for my readership to judge for themselves. If you read these and they make you want to buy the book, then buy the book. If you read these and think they are just a tad over the top, then read my review and buy the book. In the end, reviews are not about the reviewer; they are about the author. They exist for their edification and benefit. We would all do well to remember it.
Wish there were TEN stars!!!!
Verland: TheTransformation is more than a book. It’s an experience. B.E. Scully creates some of the most real characters I’ve ever read.
[This review was actually posted twice on Amazon with two different headlines. Six of the reviews for Verland are duplicates. Not sure if that is a technical glitch from Amazon or not.]
Brilliant Gothic Classic!
This novel is incredible! Amazing prose, incredible characterization, the thematic depth was stunning! This was one of the best novels I’ve read in ages. Scully creates some of the most memorable vampires since Rice hands down! The novel tackles some of the most powerful thematic elements I’ve encountered in literary horror (so missing from Rice).
A literary masterpiece!
Stoker, James, Le Fanu, Shelley and the other gothic literary masters shudder in the great beyond and hide. They, like any other immense power, must be heard and on that very rare occasion, they reach out to pass on their essence. B.E. Scully’s debut novel Verland: The Transformation is a modern gothic literary tour de force !
Verland: a journey under the skin
In truth Verland’s transformation and the profound messages contained in his diary also brought on my own galvanizing transformation, as, since finding him I started to feel, live, and see with new eyes, the truth around my own existence.
Lately I’ve been engaged in a bit of a reading frenzy. For the first time in my life, I’m actually reading multiple books at once. That means a wave of reviews is coming. Not all of them will be good (one book in particular has let me down), but hopefully they will all be helpful. I mean, after you finish That Which Should Not Be, you’ll need to find something else to read, right? Here they are, in roughly the order the reviews will come.
Some time in the future, I’ll also be reviewing The Croning and Twice Shy, two wonderful books I was asked to read early but haven’t been published yet.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this. There are already a million reviews of these books out there. Most people like them, they are being made into a movie which everybody is going to see, and I doubt anything I say will have a big effect on your opinion of the novels.
Positives: Elegantly written, interesting and enthralling story, strong female lead, emotionally impactful at points, rich and vivid world, action packed
Negatives: While interesting, the story requires massive suspension of disbelief. Seriously, Paul Atreides riding giant sand worms across the desert planet of Arrakis is more believable than this. After the first book, the story becomes rather predictable and redundant. By the third one, Katniss has fallen into some of the whiny, annoying codependency that the entire Twilight series is built upon.
All in all, it’s a great series and I recommend you read it. It doesn’t approach Harry Potter for complexity or emotional impact, but it blows the insipid Twilight out of the water (not that such a feat is an accomplishment). The first book is quite brilliant, and it is unfortunate that the series deteriorates as it goes on, particularly since most readers can readily see how the books could have been improved.
Hunger Games–5 stars
Catching Fire–4.25 stars
Great book. Check out the review here. I need to find some books to review that I don’t like so people don’t think I am a softy. Problem is, if I don’t like a book, I usually don’t finish it.
My review of Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is up over on the reviews page. Read it here. My review says it all, but in short, I really loved this book. Just a great read, one I am even considering reading again (something I almost never do). I’ve also set up an interview with Stephen Prosapio, author of Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum. Come back in a couple weeks to check that out. In the meantime, buy his book here. I promise, you won’t regret it.
As you probably recall, I was rather harsh on Colson Whitehead’s Zone One in a review I did for this site. Here is the alternative view from someone who loved it.
My review of Christmas Lites is now available here. Yes, one of the stories contained therein is mine. And yes, my story is woefully inadequate compared to some of the others. But whatever. Better product for the consumer I guess. I guess . . .
My review of American Psycho is now up on the Book Reviews page and is available here. While I think the novel is objectively great, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would, and it lost a star because of it. Still, well worth the read . . . if you can stomach it.
My review of Susperia, easily one of my favorite movies of all time, is up over in movie reviews.
My review of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One has gone live. I found the book to be frustrating, as you will see from the review. Zone One is not a terrible novel, but I do not think it is deserving of the overwhelming praise it has received.
Went to see Paranormal Activity III tonight. Enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Review is up now!
Someone asked me yesterday what process I go about when I review a book. Since I have started this website with a whole page devoted to doing just that, it seemed prudent to provide an answer. I’ll start with my review system. I grade on a 1-5 star (soon to be pumpkin if I can find the right clip art) scale. You would think that would be self-explanatory, but if you read a lot of reviews you know that it is not. I rarely see a review where the written description matches the number of stars given. I think people tend to underrate books, if that makes sense. I see three star reviews with one star ratings all the time. So to help avoid any confusion, here is what each star means to me.
1 Star – One Star reviews make me sad. I am a writer, and I know what kind of effort goes into producing even the worst book. Unless you are James Patterson and you have a veritable army of co-authors who write the books you eventualy put your name on, chances are you poured everything you had into your book. And I appreciate the fact that reviews are as much for the author as they are the audience. In any event, I only give one star reviews to the very worst books. Books that make no sense, that have cardboard thin characters if they have real characters at all. Books that have cheap and ridiculous dialogue or books that are impossible to finish.
I will not give a book one star simply because I did not like it, no matter how intense my feelings. Time for full disclosure—I hate Twilight. I hated it so much that I couldn’t get past the first 75 pages. I tried. I had even bought both the first two books in the series because I assumed I would like them. I like vampires. I’m a fan of Harry Potter. What could go wrong? The less said about it the better, especially since that’s not the point. The point is that even if I had finished the book, I would not have given it one star. Why? Because I don’t think a book that has had the cultural impact of Twilight can be a one star book. You may think I am crazy, but I am not really trying to convince you. I’m just explaining. The simple fact of the matter is I will rarely write a one star review. But if I do, you know it is bad.
2 Stars – Most of the bad reviews I write are two star reviews. A two star review means that I find something redeeming about the book (Twilight‘s cultural impact for instance) even though for whatever reason I really don’t like it. Maybe the premise fails. Maybe it is poorly written or confusing. Maybe it accomplishes nothing it sets out to accomplish. Either way, it’s a book I really didn’t like. I’ll be giving a lot of these as I try and get back into the reviewing swing of things.
3 Stars – You won’t see many of these reviews. A three star review is neither hot nor cold. It’s the worst possible review, in my opinion. It means you read the book and thought, “eh.” I hate when I get a three star review. I especially hate it because I think some people cap what they will give to genre fiction. They are like high school kickers on Rivals (forgive me, football illiterate)—they only go up to three, no higher. I don’t do that. I will rate a zombie novel just as highly as I will Ulysses. Not that I would rate Ulysses that high . . . .
4 Stars – A four star novel is one that I really love. Some authors actually get upset about four star reviews. Weird, I know. It is like you are insulting them if you don’t say their book is perfect. For me, a four star book is one I would recommend to just about anyone without any concern.
5 Stars – The funny thing about five star reviews is that they aren’t necessarily “better” than books I give four stars. Five star books fit into one of two categories. Either I just loved the book, loved it no matter what its flaws might be, or it is a book I consider to be great. If I loved the book, I can forgive any number of problems. If it is a great book, I may not have even enjoyed it that much, but I will give it five stars and explain why. There are considerably fewer of those . . . .
So there you have it. That’s my standard. Let me know in the comments how you value a book.
My review of Dean Koontz’s Phantoms is up in the Book Reviews section. Koontz is a very popular author, and I always like to honor those guys who have found great success, but I have simply never been a fan of his writing. Phantoms was a big disappointment to me, in no small part because it was so over-hyped. Interested to hear your take.