Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Answering Review Request: Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: The Secret Of A Successful Natural Remedy For Faster Weight Loss (Apple Cider Vinegar For Beginners)

Jessica David asked me to read her book "Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: The Secret Of A Successful Natural Remedy For Faster Weight Loss (Apple Cider Vinegar For Beginners) ". It's an intro to this substance and its possible applications in health and medicine. It's obviously not a novel so my scale for this book will include Content, Tone and Polish. The grade will come afterward.

CONTENT

Considering the blurb, I thought this would be just a 44 page commercial for "Apple Cider Vinegar", but that is not at all the case. There's a lot of useful/interesting information here even if you don't buy into the alleged health benefits.

In the first chapter, there's a brief history about Apple Cider Vinegar and how it can be produced, both domestically and industrially. I found both of these interesting.
There's two chapters of recipes, both for drink and food. They're supposedly tasty but I've haven't tried them so I'll take Miss. David's word for it.

The main attraction, the health benefits, are decent. It's kinda sketchy but Miss.David isn't the one doing the research; just presenting it. Besides, Layman's terms. I don't think anyone other than the researchers themselves would understand the nuts and bolts (I wouldn't, for sure).  Her information on how to make Apple Cinder Vinegar is much more thorough so I believe that is more her area of experience. The ending has this long list of sources so if the reader is intrigued they can follow the trail of bread crumbs.

TONE

It is a cautious and friendly tone. The book reads like a friend saying, "I heard about this thing and it sounds cool. Want to find out more about it?" It's not at all a salesman's pitch. There's no "subscribe to my miraculous program and use this book for a discount" sort of thing. You know, not a husker thing. It's a sense that Miss. David is genuinely interested in Apple Cider Vinegar and wants to share this knowledge rather than someone trying to capitalize on a trend and make it the next big money making scheme.

Indeed, Miss.David wants to distance herself from weight loss trends; all that stuff promising the moon and all the stars if you buy their product. Instead, Miss. David regularly mentions the need for more research before any of the health claims can be stated with certainty. She also mentions that there are a number of downsides to Apple Cider Vinegar such as the acidity causing problems for stomachs or tooth enamel. In other words, there's no miracle drug or silver bullet here. In fact, I get the feeling that she enjoyed putting "weight loss 'secret' " in quotes because, as she explicitly points out, there is no secret.

POLISH

I found three errors regarding spelling and grammar.

The long list of references at the end is good but I would like to see more connection between that list and the body of the work. Most of it is stuff like "studies by X and others". The reader shouldn't have to make the connection on their own. If I did that in college, my professors would have thrown a fit (metaphorically speaking of course).

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: The Secret Of A Successful Natural Remedy For Faster Weight Loss (Apple Cider Vinegar For Beginners)" a B

This is a free review request. I was given nothing in exchange for this review except a free copy of the book.


Click here for the next review request:


(which was originally a beta read): Final Ragnarok: She Returns
Click here for the previous review request: Spirit Tales: The Wheel Work

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Answering Review Request: Spirit Tales One - The Wheelwork

Rabbi Joseph asked me to review his book "Spirit Tales One: The Wheelwork". It's a girl with life problems having a divine experience which empowers her to overcome the problems. I will examine Plot, Characters and Polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

There's a frame narrative of a grandmother telling "Spirit Tales" to her grandchildren. She makes a distinction between this and a "fairy tale" and it is of great importance to the author. The way I see it, a "spirit tale" is about God Almighty and a "fairy tale" is about lesser supernatural creatures. Both of them are about moral instruction. What follows is basically a Jewish vision quest.

There's a neat itemization of teenage earthly problems: hanging out doing nothing, peer pressure, bullying, boy chasing, lack of interest in school, feeling empty and out of place, both parental neglect and also pressure into a given career path.

The supernatural experience that takes place in the meat of this story is well handled. It has the majesty and otherwordliness one would expect of such a realm. The advice is practical; not at all Space Whale Aesopish. It sounds like something someone could do in real life.

Ending is good. There's a conclusion of conflict with some food for thought.

CHARACTERS

This spirit tale, like it's fairy tale cousins, is a morality tale. Thus, you shouldn't expect the most diverse of characters. The protagonist is an Audience Surrogate and the bullies are cardboard cutouts but all three of them serve their purpose. The same can be said of The Protagonist's Angel Guide "Understanding". He serves as The Protagonist's guide to new understanding about herself and life.

POLISH

No spelling or grammar errors.

The hymns and verse and such are in three scripts, which is kinda cool.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Spirit Tales the Wheelwork" a B

Click here for the next review request: Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: The Secret Of A Successful Natural Remedy For Faster Weight Loss (Apple Cider Vinegar For Beginners)

Click here for the previous book review (which was a request):  Spectras Arise 1: Contract of Defiance

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Answering Review Request: Contract of Defiance

Tammy Salyer asked me to read her space opera, "Contract of Defiance". It's about two groups of criminals that try to break into a high security government facility for diametrically opposed goals. I will examine Plot, Character, and Polish before assigning a grade.


PLOT

What we have here is a conspiracy by two groups of criminals to sneak into this giant fortress operated by an oppressive government in order to rescue friends or steal weapons for a payoff. It's very Star Wars-ish, if the attempt was only undertaken by five of Han Solo's split personalities and he was working with/against Jaba the Hut's goons, The Empire was nothing but faceless mooks, and the Jedi didn't exist. Okay, revise that; it's nothing like Star Wars.

There's a In Media Res starting things off which is a great hook. It moves quickly into action and the backstory is revealed piece by piece as our protagonist, Aly Erickson, tries to get a handle on her situation.

Because she is the protagonist, one could say that the plot is her attempt to reunite with her brother, David, whom she was separated from during the In Media Res heist. Her story unfolds as she tries to make this happen. She believes he's being held captive at The Fortress that her crew was going to break into anyway but there's a problem.  Her crew was going to snatch a weapon and her boss doesn't like changing his plans. She falls in with a new crew that has a similar goal but they don't like her because she's a darker shade of grey, and she doesn't feel comfortable with them for a great many reasons, and one of them is being a darker shade of grey, but she wants to be a lighter shade. This is the book's second source of conflict.

Everyone in this story is grey (except for Rajack and most of his crew-they're straight up black). This cast contains only criminals of some kind and most of them have a Dark and Troubled Past explaining why they're a criminal and it always involves the Admin. If you think about it, they can sound silly.
-"I hate the Admin because I was a soldier and they told me to kill people who committed crimes."
-"I hate the Admin because they didn't maintain a dry mine and it eventually collapsed on my family, who was squatting in it."
-"I hate the Admin because I didn't want to use their funding towards what they wanted me to use it for so they threatened to take it away."
-"I hate the Admin because a virus wiped out a city and rumors say that it was created in the Fortress, transported to the city, and then maybe deliberately released."
This last one is the most egregious because stealing a weapon from the Fortress and using it on a populated city (for ransom money) is precisely Rajack's plan and what Aly was working towards in the In Media Res.
No one from the Admin ever appears and the only named character from the Admin is a corrupt official. Thus, we never see the other side of this story. What keeps this balanced and away from the territories of Designated Villain and Off-Screen Villainy, is that the criminal status of the main cast is regularly lampshaded.
-Hardly a chapter goes by where Aly does not mention or think about how the equipment in Agate Beach must be stolen. Thus, a target for law enforcement. She also reflects on her own past as a deserter and weapon smuggler who has no qualms with killing people if necessary.
-This quote here is illuminating.
****
(Most of the non-cit outposts I’ve been to in my travels have been destitute sties filled with pirates, degenerates, and criminals—hiding places for the cutthroat and brutal.")
****

Why do soldiers so often kill people in the outskirts? If everyone in the community is a brutal criminal then the soldiers cannot play nice. Let's imagine that this story takes place during the time when Aly was still an Admin soldier. She was tracking down, in her own words, "pirates, degenerates and criminals". She presumed that Vitruzzi's crew were "smugglers that spill blood out of convenience" because as both a soldier and deserter, that is what she is most used to seeing. That is all she finds in Hell's Gate. The lack of such people in Agate Beach baffles her. This means that the Admin, at worst, is a Knight Templar organization.
-This passage here is a full on lampshading of this grey and grey morality as well as a popping of Aly's justification for thinking the Admin is worse than herself and therefore deserves to be the victim of her crimes.

****
(Strahan leans back in his chair, his lips twisted into a sarcastic grin. "That’s just beautiful, Erikson. You work for a man who wiped out a squad of thirty soldiers to escape from Keum Libre, a prison he no doubt deserved to be in, and help him steal a bomb that could potentially wipe out the population of a planet. And you make out that it’s the Admin’s fault? That’s rich.") Page 70.
****
In other words, when you are a thief and a murderer and you work for a thief and a murderer who wants the ability to depopulate a planet, you have no moral high ground at all. Also, this comes from Strahan, who is a former soldier similar to Aly, although he was more pilot than infantry.
-When pressed to answer why she thinks the Admin would want to destroy Agate Beach, instead of just arresting the criminals inside it, Aly can only say "I don't know. Because it's what they do". Either she doesn't want to admit that the Admin is justified in tracking down criminals (albeit in a unnecessarily harsh and severe manner) or she doesn't want to admit that she thinks the Admin are Always Chaotic Evil because that would be silly if spoken aloud. Aly likes ignoring facts that don't fit her complicated world view; a fact that she is aware of and also tries to ignore.

While reading this book I couldn't help but imagine what the tone would be like and what the opinion of the Admin would be if a soldier or citizen were the protagonist. Thus, we have a grey and grey and black morality, with Rajack being the black and Vitruzzi's crew being grey along with the Admin.

The ending is good. The book's conflict is resolved but the series' conflict can continue into another book. Only a skilled author can pull off something like this.

CHARACTERS

Aly Erickson, our protagonist, is fascinatingly complex. Laying out her personality, worldview, and the contradicting-yet-complementary elements could be its own blog post. For the sake of brevity, I will try to nutshell it. (Warning! Understanding the nutshell requires fluency in Tvtropes.) Aly is a Broken Bird due to Parental Abandonment and Shell Shocked Veteran who practices half-hearted Straw Nihilism because Hope Is Scary but Even Evil Has Standards and Blood Is Thicker Than Water.


Rajack is the Big Bad. He's like a rapid dog that is paradoxically able to think rationally. Perhaps a better description would be that he is a savagely intelligent dog that employs truly rapid dogs. No one hates the Admin more than this guy and yet he does not have a Dark and Troubled Past like our protagonists with which to justify said hatred, and he's also far eviler than anyone in the Admin.

Vitruzzi is the Big Good. If she's not the leader of Agate Beach or co-leader  with Brady then she can certainly convince him to do things her way on a regular basis. She can be compared to an Apron Matron because she cares deeply about her crew's well being, keeping them safe and fed, but also doesn't take any crap from them or anyone. She's also an amazing strategist with Nerves of Steel.

The Admin has only one named character, T'kai, but he never shows up or speaks for himself. It's all second-hand and in-universe speculation about his actions and motives. There's also Vilbrandt, who claims to have been a big wig with the Admin, but no one trusts a word he says on any subject. In the end, the Admin is treated like this big monolithic bully. Since all of this comes from criminals, it's hardly an objective prospective.


POLISH

No spelling or grammar errors.

This story is a first person narration from Aly and it's a mixed bag whether or not it works. The hook at the start of the story wouldn't be nearly as effective in third person, but there are other scenes that drag because of her internal narration. Some areas are too calmly narrated for someone in panic or anger but there are also some scenes that do a good job of simulating her losing consciousness and thus awareness of what's going on. Sometimes the narration sounds like she's musing to herself or talking herself through actions but other times it comes perilously close to breaking the fourth wall by explaining things to the readers.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Contract of Defiance" a B+


P.S. I'm going to do an interview with Miss. Salyer at her website http://tammysalyer.com/. Keep an eye out for it.

Click here for the next book review (which was a request): Spirit Tales: The Wheelwork

Click here for the previous book review (which was not a request): Sword Art Online: Aincrad 1

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Second Novel Published! Reflection with Looming Shadow

It's been a little more than one month since my second book's release date.  Looming Shadow is the second book in the Journey to Chaos series, which means I officially have a series published instead of a single book claiming to be part of a series. Seeing one of my own books in the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section is pretty cool. It's not stopping there either, but more on that later.

Looming Shadow was published at the tail end of last December, so its debut month was January.  During the month of January, it was bought 414 times and burrowed through KOLL/KU 306 times. This is at a 2.99 price, which is two dollars more than the first novel. I say that's a good response. (Also, note the spike in interest for A Mage's Power ^_^)



When publishing your second book, you have the experience of the first. You've made the rookie mistakes and learned your lessons. I'm glad to say that the launch for Looming Shadow went much smoother than for A Mage's Power. I was still rushing to get it out before Year's End but there were fewer problems.
There was no problem with content because I found some beta readers to check for those. There haven't been any problems with formatting/editing/proofreading because I hired an editor to take care of them before the launch instead of afterward. I know how KPD works now so I didn't stress out over pushing the "publish" button. When I launched A Mage's Power, that button wracked my nerves and I had to bring out some musical inspiration to hit it. Now it is less scary. I also know how to make images show up in the Kindle version (though there was a brief period of time where it had two consecutive cover pages). However, I am still learning.

For instance, this time I had the experience of "breaking even". When I published "A Mage's Power" all I did was order a cover. It cost 90 dollars; not insigificant but also nothing that would break the bank. It wasn't until after my 99 cent book sold a couple thousand copies ( I could show you a picture of that record if you're interested)  that I found an editor so even then I didn't worry about it. This time I ordered everything up front: editing, proofreading, formatting, cover illustration, and advertising. It cost me a couple dollars short of a grand. Thus, I watched the sales carefully and calculated how many more copies I'd have to sell to recoup the expense I occured. I imagine it's what a publishing house feels like only magnified by many more books. It's good for empathy.  As of this writing, I'm about 90% of the way there.

It's a validating thing to have two books published instead of one. I read this thing during college about this one author talking about the "one book author". Similar to the one-hit wonder of the music industry, it's about someone who publishes one book and only one book. Either a lack of time, lack of drive or something stops them from publishing a second. It was autobiographical in that the author was afraid of that herself. She was given a certain span of time where she didn't have to work at her job and so she could "live like an author". At the time I was afraid of that, but not anymore. I have two books out and a third is going to beta reading soon.

That book has the planned title of "Mana Mutation Menace". This is the third book in the Journey to Chaos series and it will focus heavily on what creates monsters . It's fascinating to look back to the history of this concept. I created it simply to explain the presence of monsters; part of the world building and setting flavor. Essentially, it was a plot device. Now it has become the focus of a book's plot and the means by which the conflict between Chaos and Order comes to the fore.

I'm looking forward to the new Two Book  (and soon Three Book) dynamic. I've read about authors who coordinate deals between books in order to boost sales of both. For instance, making the first book free in order to gain more readers for the later books in the series. I also feel more confident in taking best advantage of such marketing through social media. When I wasn't writing I was connecting with other authors and looking for places to promote. I found both and they have lead to reciprocity.

Journey to Chaos Book 3: Mana Mutation Menace will published this year. It could be as soon as spring, or it could be as late as summer, but it will be published this year.