Saturday, September 29, 2012

But is it worth the money?

For about the past week or so, I have passed by posters at Walmart of J.K. Rowling’s latest book The Vacancy. The posters are on those obstructions at the front entrance that do double duty, sensing merchandise with those little electronic cards that need be turned off after the purchase. Otherwise, they go whoop, whoop, whoop and everyone thinks you’re shop lifting. 

Let me say the cover image on the poster struck me as a bit bland.  In reality I may never have given it a second thought if not for J.K. Rowling’s name plastered across the top.  Otherwise I may have missed the big orange rectangle with a black X on it. After passing the display a few times, I finally resolved to look it up at Amazon.

First thing that struck me was the price.  An author’s published level determines the book's cost.  For Kindle, self-published authors stay in the $0.99 to $2.99 range.  Yeah, some may go a bit higher. Books from publishers usually run higher, although most cap around the $9.99 mark. Again, we’re talking Kindle.  Well known authors run a bit higher.  John Grisham at $12.99. Tom Wolfe at $14.99. Barbara Kingsolver at $14.99, too. Rowling’s book is set at $17.99.  And that may have been lowered as one reviewer indicated she paid a whopping $21 for her Kindle edition.  BTW, Amazon indicates the list price at $35.  I guess with the name and fame comes a higher price to stay in the game.

What struck me right away was the disproportionate number of 1-star reviews. At the time of writing this blog, the count was at 32 1-star reviews to 24 5-star reviews. In fact the total count of 1 and 2 star reviews outnumbers the 3, 4 and 5 star reviews combined (42 to 38).  I read through some of the reviews and people make good points about why they don't like the book.  The forums on Amazon do not do much better, although perhaps one person said it best: “Were you honestly expecting this to be Harry Potter 8?”

Needless to say the book holds the #1 spot on the Kindle top 100.

So, does this convince me not to read it? Not at all.  I’ll make up my own mind.  Will I plunk down $17.99 for it? Nope. I’ll check out the local library and borrow a copy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Level of Expectation

I like self-published books.  Undiscovered talent. Fresh material. The excitement of witnessing someone who will be a major talent, and possibly already is. What does irk me a bit is when self-published novels purport to be from a publishing house, but don’t meet the expectations.Probably a lot of good reasons exist for attaching a publisher’s name, but my impression is someone trying to convince me of a level of professionalism that’s not there. 

Here is an example of style/grammatical error I keep running across in a current book I am reading which has some publishers name attached to it. 

John met Mary at the restaurant. Said, “How’ve you been?”

Okay who “said” it?   Probably John, but that construction is missing in my Chicago Style manual. Sounds like street talk. “Hey, bro.  Saw my cousin last week. Said whazup?”

Here some other nuances I found in books that are obviously self-published but have a publisher’s moniker attached to them.  Sentence fragments that read like riding a skiff in heavy break waters. The use of commas is non-existent. Missing text. Gibberish sentences that stop me dead and make think: how did this get by an editor?

My point here is not to knock self-publishing. I’ve got books out there. My point is when I see a publisher name attached to a book I expect a higher level of professionalism.

Am I being too picky?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review of THE TRINITY GAME by Sean Chercover

The Trinity Games by Sean Chercover  grabbed me on the first page. I found it to be in-line with thrillers by Dan Brown, David Baldacci and Steve Berry, blending mystery, action and suspense into an epic tale. 

David Byrne is a Catholic priest looking for a God.  After growing up on the bible circuit with his preacher-uncle Tim Trinity, a smooth talking conman, bilking millions of dollars from his followers, David joined the priesthood hoping to find something to fill his spiritual void. He becomes a topnotch investigator for the Church’s Office of Devil’s Advocate.  Only problem is the sometimes his superiors want a miracle even if it is full of holes.  He’s given a final assignment to investigate Tim Trinity, his uncle, who seems to have suddenly become the real deal, speaking in tongues, predicting the future. Suddenly everyone wants Tim Trinity dead, and David has his hands full keeping his uncle alive.

The pace of this book is fast and the 450 pages rolled by.  While I didn’t find a Catholic priest questioning his faith, nor depicting corruption in the Catholic church as terribly new, the book was indeed entertaining. It kept me flipping pages until the end to see how it plays out.  And it leaves the door wide open for sequels with David Byrne. I give it four thumbs up.