Book review – Bones by Angela Nock

Hang on a minute, I hear you cry, isn’t that your book Angela? How egotistical can you be to review your own book?

Well, in my defence, this review is a bit different.

And there will be swearing 🙂 Sorry, not sorry.

I wanted to write a post about reviewing your own work from time to time and as it just so happens, I’ve started reviewing and re-evaluating my last three books, The Bones, Ashes and Dust Trilogy.

See, the Coronavirus and self-distancing have given me the time and opportunity to do this. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.

I’ve realised that my book covers are crap.

Yes, crap.

And, I’ve started changing them. Oh, and I’ve changed the name of the first one to Heart of Shadows. The other titles in the trilogy will be changed too, in time.

This is my old book cover here:

Bones Cover 2

Angela, what the actual fuck were you thinking?

I mean, it’s a pretty enough cover but what does it actually say? Well, it says fuck all about what my book was about.

This is an example of me trying a little bit too hard. And it failed. Miserably!

Why didn’t I realise this in the beginning?

Good question. The thing is, I loved this cover when I first did it but now, after taking a step back, I see it doesn’t work. I was trying to be too clever.

I did some online training with the SPF community the other day. The lecture was actually about keywords but one of the lecturer’s points was that one of the elements to ranking high on Amazon was the need to make sure your cover, title, subtitle and book description had a symbiotic relationship.

It hit me like a truck as I was listening. None of my elements joined together. My blurb was okay but it didn’t correspond with my cover or my title. So, I set about changing this.

Bones is an Urban Fantasy Romance Adventure about a girl who tried to kill herself but was saved by the Angel of Death sent to collect her soul. The cover didn’t reflect this. The title didn’t reflect this.

First thing I did was to change the title to Heart of Shadows. Hopefully, this now corresponds more with the theme of the book.

Secondly, I redesigned the cover. Now it looks like this:

Bones

Now, this says more about the story. I think?

So, what’s the point of this article then, Angela?

The point is, never be too proud to rethink things. Always keep on learning. Not one of us knows everything. Keep getting better at what you’re doing and keep growing. Keep communicating with others in the writing community. Soak up their advice and don’t be too shy to speak up when you think you’ve got a valid point to share.

And that’s the beauty of Indie publishing. I can revisit things. I can do re-writes and edits and change the covers of my books because, to a great extent, I’m in charge of that side of things.

Now, all have to do is sort out the shitty start of my first book and redo the covers of book two and three. Oh, and come up with new titles.

Not much, lol!!

Keep making mistakes folks, that’s how you learn!

So, what do you think of my new cover?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber and Faber, 2015)

Set in a post-Arthurian Britain, The Buried Giant is the tale of an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, who set off on a journey to find their missing son. Their journey is complicated by the fact that many people, including the couple themselves, have fallen under the spell of a strange mist which seems to cause amnesia.

I was so excited to read this after so much praise and quite a few recommendations from friends and various groups I’m in.

I began to read it and…sad to say…I can’t finish it!

For me, it was just such hard going that I groaned inwardly every time I picked up the book. I knew that this was not a good sign and that I should just give up. I very rarely abandon a book without finishing it, but this was one of those occasions where I just couldn’t keep going. If a book is making you feel like reading is a chore then, in my opinion, you need to stop reading it.

That’s not to say The Buried Giant is a bad book. It has many brilliant reviews and was a Sunday Times Best Seller. It’s just that, it’s not for me. Kazuo Ishiguro is a fantastic writer. I absolutely loved Never Let Me Go. I just didn’t get along with this one.

I felt no connection with the characters. They talked to each other so strangely that I couldn’t really relax into the book. And the action moved slower than a snail. This isn’t always a problem but when the characters are stilted in their conversations too, it makes for a very slow read.

So, in conclusion, I can’t give The Buried Giant a star rating because I feel that would be unfair as I didn’t finish it.

I didn’t like it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t give it a go, especially if you’ve loved some of Ishiguro’s previous work.

Great for people who like a slow melancholic reflection on love and death. Not so great for those who like a well-paced novel.

 

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part 56

They’d been walking for hours before they even reached the edge of the Haunted Forest. I mean, thought Joe, how more cliché could you get than the Haunted Forest? He felt like he was in a bloody fairy tale.

Agnes had insisted on preparing him a little rucksack. She’d filled it with sandwiches full of green mushy stuff (Joe didn’t know what it was, nor was he going to ask as he thought that might get him into even more trouble than he already was in) and a flask of tea. Although, after having the last cup of tea with the Dead Man Walking, it had kind of turned him off but she was, at least, trying to be helpful. Joe had slipped the Book of the Dead into the rucksack even though it had proved pretty useless so far.

The bag itself was a little bit of a problem. It was pink with a picture of a My Little Pony on it. This raised several serious questions in Joe’s mind; why had Agnes got a pink My Little Pony Rucksack, and what did that say about her character? He buried these thoughts in the back of his head. He was far too much of a chicken to ask her.

It was pretty obvious, even to Joe, when they’d reached the edge of the Haunted Forest for a thick blanket of fog had started to envelop them in gloom.

‘So, before we go In,’ said Joe, trying to delay the inevitable moment of actually entering the forest, ‘what’s the deal with the Woodcutter?’

Agnes came to an abrupt halt. She spun around, her fists in tight little balls at her side. ‘What do you need to know other than he has my heart?’

‘Well, how did he get it? How did he steal it? It’s not really something that I thought would be easy to steal.’

‘Are you trying to say I was careless?’

‘Well, no…I…was just asking.’

Agnes’ shoulders dropped and she sighed loudly. ‘The truth is…I was careless. I loved him. And I gave my heart away -‘

‘But you said, he stole it.’

‘Joe,’ said Hel, ‘she means she gave it away metaphorically speaking.’

‘Yes. One night we…and then…when I woke up, he’d cut my heart out.’

‘But what did he want with your heart?’

‘I don’t know, do I?’ snapped Agnes.

Book Review – The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Zaffre Books, 2019)

I’ll put my hands up and be really honest and say I only picked up this book because the gorgeous cover caught my eye as I was wandering around a supermarket (yes, I’m one of those people – mea culpa :)). I read the blurb, it sounded good so I bought it.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The Familiars is the debut novel by author Stacey Halls.

Set in 1612, The Familiars is set against the backdrop of the very real events of the Pendle witch trials, and centres around Fleetwood Shuttleworth, the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall.

The young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is pregnant again after suffering several miscarriages. She’s anxious and desperate to provide her husband Richard with an heir. She discovers a hidden letter from a doctor with the awful prediction that she will not survive another birth.

In a desperate bid to keep herself and her baby alive she employs a local woman, Alice Gray, to be her midwife. However, as the witch hunts begin to gain traction it isn’t long before Alice is implicated in the use of witchcraft. How far will Fleetwood go to protect herself, her baby and her midwife?

The Familiars is an impressive debut novel by Stacey Halls. I felt it was a little shaky and slow in the beginning but not enough to stop me reading it. When the pace picked up there was enough intrigue and suspense to keep the story moving forward. However, I felt the conclusion of the story was a little bit underwhelming but this is probably because the story had to be set within the confines of what was acceptable for a Gentlewoman in 1612, so not necessarily the author’s fault.

Unlike the Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox (see my review here) the heroine of The Familiars manages to be pro-active despite the restrictions of the time. This was a big plus for me. Personally, I find nothing duller than a heroine that does nothing!

Whilst The Familiars isn’t perfect, and despite the shaky start, I would recommend The Familiars. I think for her debut novel, Stacey Halls did a fantastic job.

4 out of 5 stars.

Great for those who like Historical Fiction that is set against real, researchable events. Not so good for those interested in the witch hunts and assizes as the drama takes place away from the actual trials. In other words, it might not be “witchy” enough for you.

 

 

 

My Faves – Book Review – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (Bloomsbury, 1997)

Does this book need any introduction?

Is there anyone alive who hasn’t heard of the Boy Who Lived?

Harry Potter is an orphan who lives in the cupboard under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s house. That is until mysterious letters – delivered by owls – keep turning up at the door. Uncle Vernon is not impressed and doesn’t want Harry to read them, so he takes the family to a small island in a stormy sea, knowing that the letters can’t reach them there.

Except, he doesn’t anticipate the arrival of Hagrid, a friendly giant who crashes through the door of the house and utters the immortal words, “Harry – yer a wizard.”

And indeed, Harry is a wizard. A very powerful wizard as it turns out.

I LOVE this book. In fact, I LOVE the whole flippin’ series of Harry Potter books.

J.K. Rowling is an expert at world-building and is a master of the little details that just suck you into Harry’s world right from the beginning.

I know Harry Potter has been reviewed to death but I had to review the book that basically inspired me to write. To me, this book is perfection.

Probably the only time in my life I have been truly envious of someone else’s talent. Rowling is a master of plot and a magic weaver of worlds.

And yes, I’m 43 and I don’t care that it’s a book written for young adults. I love it anyway.

And to those who have a problem with adults reading the Harry Potter books, I don’t f*~king care! 🙂

Personally, I think you’re missing out but that’s just my opinion.

Why don’t you give it a try and see what happens?

FIVE STARS.

Great for those who love intricate fantasy worlds. Not so great for those…no, wait, it’s great for everyone!

 

 

 

Book Review – The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox

The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox (Orion Books, 2013)

The Goddess and the Thief was a book I’d put on my Christmas list last year because, as a book worm, a book is the perfect present.

I can’t remember how this book had come to my attention; whether it was a recommendation from friends on Goodreads, or whether it was from one of the many Facebook pages I have liked.

The blurb sounded promising. A girl, called Alice, is uprooted from her life in India and is made to live with her spiritual medium aunt in Windsor, in Victorian England. “Alice,” says the blurb, “is drawn into a plot to steal a sacred Indian diamond.”

After reading the novel The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (which I absolutely loved) I thought The Goddess and the Thief would be right up my street.

Except, it really wasn’t.

Unlike The Lie Tree, the heroine of The Goddess and the Thief doesn’t really do much. She spends most of the novel in her bedroom, or locked in bedrooms, or completely in the dark. She is always reacting to things and not being proactive at all.

I get it. That’s her story arc – from someone who reacts to events to someone taking control – but it’s so boring! And annoying. And, SPOILER (so if you don’t want to know, please don’t read on) at one point she is sexually assaulted and she swoons after the man who raped her. Not cool, not cool at all. Very, very damaging stuff that. Very troubling to read and I’m not easily troubled by stuff.

The blurb on Goodreads tells says that The Goddess and the Thief is “A beguiling and sensual Victorian novel of theft and obsession.”

No.

It may be a novel of theft and obsession but it really isn’t sensual. Creepy? Yes. Sensual…? Hell no!

And for that person at the back who is saying, “blimey, everyone is so easily offended these days!” F*#k off.

Only joking 🙂

I’m not easily offended, and, I’m not offended by this work. I just find things like this are so unhelpful.

Anyway, I give this book one out of five stars.

Many people on Amazon and Goodreads loved it. You might love it. It just didn’t float my boat.

Great for those who like beautiful prose (the first few chapters are beautifully written). Not great for those who like a pro-active heroine.

 

 

So, you wanna be a writer? Bad reviews.

Imagine this;

You’ve spent three years writing your novel, polished it to within an inch of its life and are incredibly proud of your baby. You’re ready to publish. You press the button to self-publish (or it’s publication day for those who have gone the traditional way) and then wait.

The reviews (if you’re lucky/ unlucky) come rolling in.

Some are five stars. Others are one star.

One star?

Shit.

Pass me the vodka.

My writing sucks!

I’m never writing again.

I’m going to unpublish it.

I wasn’t made to be a writer.

I’m too shit at this! 

Does it sound familiar?

STOP!

Everyone gets bad reviews. I repeat EVERYONE. Even Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and all the literary geniuses that have ever had the balls to put their work out there.

Have you looked at Goodreads recently? It can be brutal (as I’ve found to my expense! ha ha ha – pass me the vodka too!).

If the bad reviews get under your skin, my advice to you is, don’t read them. Straight up, stop. It’s not worth it. Don’t let it stop you from doing the thing you love.

See, the problem is, reading and writing are very subjective things. Everyone likes different things and you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. They are not your people.

Go and find your people.

If you can stomach reading the bad reviews, sometimes you can use them as a learning tool. Is there something which every bad review picks up on? Do you agree with them? Can you change it? Do you want to change it?

But, be warned, using reviews as a learning tool doesn’t always work and can backfire on you spectacularly.

Here’s a sample of a review I received for Everlong (a paranormal romance I self-published a few years ago);

Whenever I read a Young Adult book I always ask myself “am I enjoying this book” and “would my teenage daughter enjoy this book?”.

The answer to both questions is “Not really.” Normally if I have gotten that far into a book and it has not grabbed my attention yet then I put the book away and never finish reading it. The only reason I didn’t is because I made myself resolution to finish reading 52 books this year and review them. However, I won”t review most books until I have finished them because sometimes the ending is better than the beginning. This book is a clear example of why I do that. This book gets off to a rough slow start but ends with a flourish. The end was good enough that I MIGHT just read the next book in the series to find out what happens next to Evie and Josh. Maybe the next book is a 4 star book or better.

This isn’t a particularly bad review. But, I asked myself, is there anything I can learn from this?

Not on its own, but several other reviews did mention that the start of Everlong dragged a little. As a few people mentioned this, it probably follows that the start is a little slow, doesn’t it?

So I changed it.

I restructured the novel to make it more interesting. I changed the title and the book cover. The new book, called Bones, has one review on Goodreads. It’s a 2 star.

Everlong, the original version has nine text reviews, and five of those are four or five stars.

Another reviewer, who gave Everlong five stars, wrote:

When Josh saves Evie from dying everything changes for them both. Mostly because Josh is the Angel of Death. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story was very original and wonderfully written. I LOVED the forbidden chemistry between Evie and Josh. I really wanted them to be together. Of course, with Josh’s “profession” being together isn’t going to be easy. Josh is a very loving and sexy character! I loved how much he wanted Evie. I absolutely cannot wait for book #2! I highly recommend this book!!

See what I mean?

You can’t please everyone.

So, don’t even try!!!

And leave the reviews alone, even the good ones, because, in the end, it will do your head in!

The best thing you can do if you want to know what works and what doesn’t work in your writing is to get a team of BETA readers to read it BEFORE you publish. Or join a workshop for writers. If there isn’t one near where you live, well, why not start one up yourself?

BUT, leave the reviews alone.

Unless you’re like me and are a bit of weirdo! 🙂