Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review for The Time Zombies became the Least of My Worries by Jen Naumann

A Fun and Funny Read

5 Stars. This is the second book in the Boring Life Series. I loved the first book in this series, but it left me feeling a little wanting. This book however picked up right where it needed to and filled in all of those lingering questions. This series has been one of the most fun reads I’ve read in a while. Jen Naumann has created a group of characters that are both fun and witty and at the same time very real.

As usual Emma’s wit and honesty made her an enjoyable character to read about. She still cracked jokes to ease her discomfort, but she’s grown up a lot by the start of this book. It was nice getting to see Emma shine and take charge. Her relationship with Finn was also fun to read about. The two of them are navigating their way through a serious relationship in the midst of all of this chaos and it was interesting watching them trying to be adults and lead this group of misfits, and yet they’re still very much teenagers.

It was also nice getting to see things through Finn’s eyes. The narration is split between Finn and Emma giving you a more rounded view of the story than we got in the first book, and I really enjoyed being in Finn's head. His concern for Emma is endearing and her push for independence shows character growth on her part. She’s not the same girl that developed amnesia when things got too tough. I also liked seeing how the two of them interpreted the same situation differently and it was easy to understand why they fought about certain things and why each of them felt the way they did at certain parts.

This book made me laugh, but it had its sad moments too. Emma and Finn lose some of the people that were closest to them and while I was sad to see some of them go Jen does a good job making their deaths feel necessary and meaningful. Like the first book, this is not your typical zombie storyline. It’s full of surprises. We also find out more about how aliens have played a role in this disaster and meet a few new faces who stir things up for Emma and her friends.

Another thing I loved about this book was that it ended on a happy note. Emma and Finn have lost a lot along this journey, but there is hope for the world to recover from this tragedy.

If you looking for a fun read this series will have you laughing all the way through. I couldn’t put it down and it was a nice break from some of the darker more serious stories I’ve been reading lately.

Read my Review for The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life (Boring Life #1)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cover Art: Tips for using Stock Photos

Stock photos seem to be a go to when it comes to designing a book cover. For those of us who aren't talented in the world of photography, stock photos allow us to have quality images at a reasonable price. However, with more and more self-published authors and indie publishers using stock photos in their cover art designs problems arise with the same image making it to the cover of multiple books. So, here are some tips to keep your stock photo cover looking original.

1. Do know what stock images have already been used on covers, and try not to use them. Look through other book covers, especially of those in your genre to see what images have already been used and how they’ve been used. Scan through books on Goodreads and Amazon, and be especially aware of images that have been used more than once already. Check out this Goodreads list to help:

2. Just because a book is popular does not mean you can ignore rule #1. After Samantha Young hit it big with Penguin, the cover to “On Dublin Street” was being copied over and over again (granted there are many books out there published with this image before On Dublin Street came out, but I noticed a boom in the use of this image after it was released), and it was obvious that authors were trying to cash in on the popularity of that image. But, people will know the difference between your book and the best seller you’re trying to replicate. You don’t want to trick people into buying your book.

3. Stay away from images that are already specific to a certain genre. For example, don't go on a stock photo site and search for an image for your new vampire novel with the search term "vampire". The images you'll find will already be specific to that genre of book making it more likely that someone will recognize it (if the image is used again) because it will most likely be used again in the same genre.

4. Do try and change the image you choose in a way that makes it new and original. Copies are going to happen, especially with millions of books being published every year. The more you can do to change elements of your cover the less likely it will be compared to another book.

These two novels use the same image, but each has a completely different feel.

These two could easily be confused for the same book

5. Don’t be upset if someone uses the same image as you later on. While it may make you feel a little less special it doesn’t mean people are going to stop buying your book. Look at Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series and Shelly Crane’s significance series. Both feature cover art of the same couple (as a number of other books have as well), both have been fairly popular series’ and neither one has really caused any problems for the other.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review for Lord of Misrule (Morganville Vampires #5) by Rachel Caine

Felt like Filler

3.5 Stars. What made Lord of Misrule really interesting was getting to see Morganville flipped upside-down. In this book Monica is no longer at the top, she’s at the bottom and everything is backwards from how it was in the first book – but the town is just as scary, if not more so.

Although all of the Morganville Vampire books are told from Claire’s perspective in Lord of Misrule it sometimes felt like Claire was disconnected from the central fight, as if the main character was really Shane or Amelie.

The pace certainly picked back up in this book compared to Feast of Fools, and there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of back story like I felt there was in the last book, but there were still annoying inconsistencies. Also this book felt like Claire was in a constant race. It didn’t really have a rising action, climax, or falling action. It was just kind of constant action. More than half way through I’d only barely seen the bad guy because Claire did so much running around. I did really enjoy how Claire’s relationship with Shane grew, but the overall story didn’t feel as together as the other books.

One thing that was a little frustrating with this book was that a good three or four chapters passed in the beginning where we hear nothing from Shane. He’s not really gone that long, but Caine spends a lot of time taking you through everything that Claire does and sometimes I wished she would have skipped ahead. It also felt like Claire wasn’t as worried about Shane as she was about everyone else. But their relationship does progress in this book with Shane finally saying I love you, and I really enjoyed that.

As for the other characters, I felt like Claire’s parents didn’t really have a point to being in this book and wondered why they even moved to Morganville in Feast of Fools. It felt like Claire pretty much ignored them and they didn’t really do anything to move the plot forward. I did like Oliver in this book. He’s been a complex character from the very beginning and it was nice to have him once again (at least kind of) on the good guy’s side. And, of course I loved Gramma Day.

Looking at this series as a whole this book felt like filler, but I will still continue on with book six. As usual Lord of Misrule ends in a cliffhanger, and this time it’s a big one. It’s not a happy ending, the good guys don’t win, and you’re left wondering if Myrinn has betrayed everyone (again). It’s really rather heartbreaking, but just the kind of thing to make me need that next book all that much more.

Read my review of Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires Book 1)
Read my review of The Dead Girls Dance (Morganville Vampires Book 2)
Read my review of Midnight Alley (Morganville Vampires Book 3)
Read my review of Feast of Fools (Morganville Vampires Book 4)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer's Digest Feedback for Into the Deep

Sadly, Into the Deep did not win any awards in the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, however it did receive some wonderful feedback from the Judges. I wanted to take a minute to share this with all of my readers, and to remind everyone that there are some wonderful self-published books out there. My budget for Into the Deep was practically nonexistent. I didn't have extensive developmental editing, I had beta readers, I didn't have thousands of dollars to spend on cover art or formatting, I had zero dollars (with the exception of paying my editor). I did have great friends and an amazing editor, Victoria Shockley. That "outstanding" score in grammar is all her. And, even though I'm not going home with a prize I still feel very honored and validated in my craft to have received the feedback I did from the professionals at Writer's Digest.

[Note: If you have not read Into the Deep yet the commentary below does contain spoilers]

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 5

Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5

Judges Commentary*:

I really enjoyed your story.  I got so caught up in it that I didn't notice any mistakes in grammar.  You did a great job of characterization and through Ivy's ability to read thoughts, I think your reader will analyze, then try to understand the types of teenagers and the problems that you describe.  The fact of putting a time limit on the bomb helped increase the tension as the deadline grew near.  Your subplots of the various parents' problems impacting the teens' personalities added a deeper dimension to the story.   I liked Ivy's perceptions of so many of the characters changing when she learned more about their lives and by the end her three shallow friends being redeemed by clearing the crowd from the bombsite.   I didn't realize until the end that this was the first book of the series.  In retrospect, that made your climax even more interesting.  The reader expected Ivy to lose her psychic ability when hitting her head for the second time.  A surprise ending is always good.  I think I remember your foreshadowing Eric being picked on in the beginning of the story, but I couldn't find it again to make sure.  Great if you were able to slip that it so inconspicuously.  Your voice sounded perfect for your target reader and your minimalist sex scenes were great.  I'm glad you had a lot of dialogue to make up for the necessary blocks of text where Ivy was alone with her own thoughts.  The text never felt heavy.  Great subplot conflict with Ivy and Tiana's jealousies.  A good read, well thought out and written for your target reader.  You are a very talented writer, good enough for the major publishers with sales/marketing staff to support your efforts.   It's a tough business; don't give up.  Good luck.

Read more about Into the Deep on Amazon 

Read more about  Into the Deep on Goodreads

Indie Book Goal 2018