Tag: book reviews

Frankenreview

As a public service, I thought it would be helpful to cobble together all the negative criticism ever written about my debut novel A Time and a Place (at least all that I could find online) and publish it as one single blisteringly harsh review. Kind of like ripping the Bandaid (TM) off all at once.

A “frankenreview“, if you will.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Every line is pretty much a direct quote from the original source review, though I’ve jumbled it all up so that my frankenreview follows a kind of twisted logic. I altered some punctuation and the occasional pronoun/noun in the interest of syntax.

I think the result is a fairly kick-ass review, though admittedly not one likely to help me sell more books.

To see more reviews of A Time and a Place (both positive and negative), or to add your own, check out its Goodread’s page.

I must confess that I am fairly conflicted about Joe Mahoney’s ‘A Time and a Place’. More than once I picked this up to read and simply could not do it. I didn’t like this one, and couldn’t get past the third chapter. It’s too much like too many other books and it is also very slow. Liked it but didn’t luv it, BUT NOT saying it was bad, just not totally my type or maybe the mood, but seemed as if in places it dragged a bit. Parts of the novel seemed a little rushed, and there’s questions left unanswered.

The novel is probably too strange for people who normally don’t care for science fiction. To list some points of criticism, which are meant to be constructive, I think that the author was a bit too ambitious. A Time and a Place is a complex story and an ambitious novel, but I found that the execution wasn’t quite up to the premise. Normally, this would take 3 books or more to cover. Compressing it into one book meant that it comes across rushed, and there is not enough time for sufficient character development, or exploration of the themes.  

Mahoney clearly has a peculiar sense of humour and (for me) a protagonist who really needed a good smack upside the head!  He saddles (his) world with one of the least likeable protagonists I’ve read around in some time. I would have given (the book) a higher rating if it wasn’t for the characters. The main character can be annoyingly obtuse at times. I feel like most of them besides Wildebear aren’t fleshed out and are just there for plot convenience. Even Wildebear, despite being close to 40 years old, was childish most times and I didn’t like the book as much because of him. Barnabus J. Wildebear is a strange character, at times willfully ignorant of the world around him, ill suited to the task at hand, yet still trying to act as if his opinions about almost any of the circumstances he is caught up in are remotely valid. Unfortunately, Barnabus seems pulled through the events of the story by external forces and lacks the level of agency I like to see in a protagonist. Much of the time he comes across as bewildered.

The second half of the book got a bit muddled for me. I felt I needed a diagram to keep track of it all. There were few female characters. Besides Swipe, there’s Barnabus’s dead sister, and then the scientist Sarah (who is always described by her awesome looks first and second and her mental abilities third). Perhaps we can count Iugurtha as a female character, but she’s really a mix of all the people she’s absorbed over the years. It would have been nice to have a bit more from the ladies.

The ending rallies a bit, despite occasional segments that distract or feel a little overdone. I was still confused about Iugurtha who I think becomes known as Jacques… but then there’s also Jack, right? These seem to be all the same ‘demon’ (or alien) at different points in time. But I’m not sure, which is what bothered me. I want to be sure about such things by the end of a book. Speaking of that ending, it gets rather sentimental and strives for deep thoughts. I found it a little sappy. I wanted a more definitive ending, perhaps following a rousing action scene.

A Time and a Place strikes me as quintessentially Canadian – oddly polite and mannered and stubbornly domestic, even while an absurd parade of characters, circumstances and magical beings marches through the book. So why didn’t it click with me? Because that’s just the way it goes with humour. If Mahoney had maintained the dry humor of Wildebear throughout the whole story he likely could have pulled off a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibe. But the humor gets lost at times and the protagonist’s point of view comes across more naive than anything else through the middle chunk of the book.

Joe Mahoney has narrated his own story. He does a decent job but needs a little polishing all around. There were a few mouth noises here and there. The pacing was just a touch slow. The female voices were pretty good though sometimes they could have used a little more femininity.

culled from Various sources such as Goodreads, Librarything, and Amazon

Ratings and Reviews

Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

This past month I was fortunate to have sold plenty of copies of A Time and a Place. About 1400 copies, all told. And copies of Other Times and Places, too. People have been reading my work, and forming opinions about it. This is great, and I’m pretty happy about it. It has resulted in reviews and ratings on several platforms, primarily Amazon, Kobo, and Goodreads. And not just Amazon Canada, but in the US, Australia, and Great Britain as well, and some of the ratings from those locations have shown up on Amazon India too.

Although I wish I was impervious to reviews and ratings, I’m not. Maybe one day I will be (I kind of doubt it). Whenever I notice a new review or rating has been added, I get butterflies. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I scroll down to see how one tiny portion of the universe has reacted to my work. Sometimes the response is positive; sometimes less so. You have to take it all with a grain of salt. You have to develop a thick skin. But that can be easier said than done.

The work I’ve publicly released into the world, that I consider worthy of an ISBN, that I dare to charge money for, is the best I was capable of producing at the time I created it. I gave it all a great deal of thought and in most cases injected massive amounts of time and effort into it. If someone indicates that they’ve liked it, I’m gratified and feel a tiny bit vindicated. If someone indicates that they really dislike or hate it, I get a bit deflated, at least temporarily. If someone reveals that they’re ambivalent to my work, or they kind of like it but consider it flawed in some way, I’m disappointed but okay with it.

I’ve received a couple of one star ratings on Goodreads. They haven’t been accompanied by reviews, so I consider them meaningless. I’ve heard Goodreads described as “crazy town” by other writers, so some of what shows up there you just have to ignore.

Now that I know how much work goes into writing and publishing a book, I’m a bit bemused by the whole concept of ratings and reviews. Sometimes I think you shouldn’t be allowed to simply rate someone else’s work without an accompanying review. You should have to defend your rating. Shouldn’t you?

A writer spends (in some cases) years of their life working on their opus only to have someone read it in a matter of days (perhaps not even closely) and then dash off a rating in few seconds (or a flippant review in minutes). It doesn’t seem quite fair. Fortunately, this doesn’t bother me too much. I have long since abandoned the idea that life is fair (it’s a recurring theme in my work, after all).

For ratings and reviews to be fair they would have to be produced with integrity. Ideally the reader would read the work reasonably closely and reflect upon it before producing an opinion that they then back up with a cogent, considered argument. Although I much prefer to receive four and five star reviews, I don’t mind receiving a three star review if it’s accompanied by a solid rationale explaining why my book only merited three stars. I might even agree with it.

Myself, I can’t rate any book less than four stars anymore (although I have done so in the past). I just can’t bring myself to do it because I relate too strongly to the authors of those books. I know they’ve worked hard on their book, and they’re trying to sell it, and anything less than four stars isn’t going to help sell the book. I hasten to add (for those of you who have given my work three stars) that this is just me. I’m not complaining about your rating or asking you to change it (something I would never do). Different ratings mean different things to different people. Megan Lindholm (writing as Robin Hobb) posted the following on her Goodreads account:

“I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star ‘I liked it’ rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It’s a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means yes, I liked the book, and I’d loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it.”

Megan lindholm

So that’s what a two star rating means to her. It’s not what it means to me! Myself, I’m appalled that she would even consider rating the work of a fellow writer two stars. Three stars I could see: the existence of three star ratings accompanied by a well-reasoned review helps lend integrity to the rest of the reviews. But two stars? That’s just insulting. And I say that as a fan of Megan Lindholm’s work. The Wizard of the Pigeons is one of my favourite books. I rated it four stars (instead of five) because of the ham-fisted execution of the final three pages, which, in my opinion, almost completely undermines the quality of what comes before. Perhaps I should revise my rating to two stars.

I know that ratings and reviews are ultimately meaningless. All that really matters is that we do the best we can when we produce our work. We mustn’t derive our self-esteem from external sources. True value (and self-worth) comes from within.

And I shall do my best to remember that.

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