Writer, Broadcaster

Tag: reviews (Page 1 of 2)

“Frankenreview” (Part Two)

Here’s a slightly more positive “frankenreview” (hey, fair’s fair…)

Photo by Dad Grass from Pexels

Once again, this “frankenreview” is comprised of direct quotes from existing reviews found on Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything and elsewhere. I did not change a single word, though I did omit some words (as indicated by ellipsis) and added others (indicated by parentheses) in the interest of readability.

I encourage you to visit any of the sites mentioned above and post your own reviews. Not just for my book(s), but for any you’ve read. Whether the reviews you leave are positive or negative (or somewhere in between) you’ll be doing your favourite writer(s) a huge favour.

Et voila… A Time and a Place “Frankenreview” Part Two:

(Click here for Frankenreview Part One)

What a story! Unlike any other sci-fi you’ve ever read. Non-stop action. It… had me hooked from the beginning. I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it for those who like their science fiction stories to be quirky, human and compelling. I loved this book!

Mahoney relates a pretty rollicking Fantasy-Science Fiction adventure story with a lively, imaginative degree of world building. There is a veritable smorgasbord of funky ideas at play in the novel and passages of sneaky thoughtfulness cheek by jowl with subversive goofiness. With wry, tongue-in-cheek similes and metaphors at his disposal, Mahoney seems to be both winking at the tropes of the genres he is engaged in while encouraging us as readers to give them another look with a fresh set of eyes.

This book was both comic and tragic, sad and funny, with a hero who tries to do the right thing but always seems to stumble. The protagonist is an endearing sad sack. I… found the characters to be sympathetic and memorable. Mahoney… deserves credit for taking a passel of relatively archetypical supporting characters and either spinning them off in unexpected ways or giving them much more nuance and depth than expected. Beings of all stripes enter the field of battle, the most charming being Jacques, a one-eyed tentacled Necronian who will engulf you unless you have something he wants. I greatly enjoyed the chapters in which our time and dimension travelling hero finds himself in the body of an alien, purple-furred cat with opposable thumbs and then a seagull. The T’Klee were my favorite bit. I love the idea of large cats with opposable thumbs, their own language & culture, and having to fight the technologically advanced Necronians.

The magic of A TIME AND A PLACE resides in its rich description of places we’ll never see—not even in dreams. The author has a great imagination. His ability to evoke imaginative worlds and alien creatures is what makes reading this book such a pleasure. The vivid descriptions and wit kept me hooked from beginning to end. A Sci-Fi Fantasy with literary notes, there is so much to love about this book. 

The writing is so polished that if it were my hardwood floor, I would be able to see my face in it. Quintessentially Canadian, beautifully written, displaying the dry humour that made Stephen Leacock a national treasure. By turns droll and exuberant, this novel reels you into its strange world with as much pull as the portal that sends Barnabus through time and space. This book sprawls, wildly (I didn’t mention the shapeshifting demon Iugurtha or the sentient artificial intelligence Sebastian or the warrior cats), yet it all fits together. Through its unflinching depiction of conflict, this book packs a surprising emotional punch. But – mark my words – this doesn’t disqualify Joe Mahoney from being the next Terry Pratchett… the author has a decided knack for humorous word play which brings some levity to otherwise serious situations. Mahoney writes with a practised wit. In A Time and a Place, the humour sneaks up on you and results in under-your-breath chuckles. This all interweaves into Joe’s style, which is actually quite pronounced for a first novel.

This is the first time—in this lifetime—I’ve read anything by Joe Mahoney, and it won’t be the last. I enjoyed the book tremendously and appreciated how the background story unfolded in stages. (It) was so well written and intriguing, I did not want to put it down. A page turner. I stayed glued to it until late into the night. With questionable allies hiding in every closet, layered characters and a plot that kept the pages turning, you won’t regret adding A Time and a Place to your shelf. By the time you reach the end, you’ll be sad to leave this crazy universe behind.

Joe Mahoney was also a fine narrator. I have to say with a voice like that I would listen to anything he narrated. I loved this mesmerising audiobook with its non-stop action and adventure. Can’t wait for Mr. Mahoney’s next book.

CULLED FROM VARIOUS SOURCES SUCH AS GOODREADS, LIBRARYTHING, AND AMAZON

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.

A Time and a Place Stats

People often ask me how the writing’s going. I interpret the question pretty broadly. As in, how’s the new writing going? Fairly well, thanks.

And: how’s my first novel doing?

There’s no short answer to that question. At least, no short accurate answer.

A Time and a Place has been available just over two years now. I usually tell people that I’m not quite in Stephen King territory yet but it’s going reasonably well, and that my excellent publisher tells me that the book has paid for itself, which I hope leaves the impression that it’s achieved some measure of success.

Whether the book truly can be considered successful depends on who you’re asking, I think. I suspect that any big-time publisher might condemn the book as a complete and utter failure. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code sold eighty million copies. Compared to that, A Time and a Place has not exactly taken the world by storm.  

The aforementioned big-time publisher might—I say might—concede that the critical reception for A Time and a Place (professional and otherwise) has been reasonably favourable, but they would probably also feel compelled to point out the rather small sample size.

Some novelists, I suspect, might suggest that merely completing and publishing a novel constitutes success because doing so is goddamned hard. While I accept that, most novelists would also admit that that’s not enough. Almost all of us (if we’re being honest with ourselves) would admit that we define real success as massive book sales and wide critical acclaim. On those scores, A Time and a Place can not exactly be considered an unmitigated success.

Still, to be fair (especially to those who helped me with the book), it’s probably performing perfectly fine considering it’s a first novel by an unknown author published by an independent press. I assume all responsibility for any lack of greater success. And I am well aware that the freakish success of an author like Dan Brown is pretty much a complete fluke.

But I’ll let you be the judge. Here are the facts. Let’s start with sales.

As of my most recent Royalty statement, for the first quarter of this year, covering up to March 31st 2019, A Time and a Place has sold a total of 454 books.

Of those, my publisher sold 333 print editions, 98 e-books, 1 e-library edition, and 22 audio books.

Of the 333 physical copies my publisher sold, I sold 134 of those myself after purchasing them from my publisher (at a discount). I gave away 13 books as gifts, another 2 were kinda gifts (I thought the people would pay but they never did), and 1 copy was stolen after a reading at a library (she picked it up off the table when I was across the room. I didn’t confront her. I dunno, maybe she thought it was free).  I have another 18 copies sitting in my basement to have available for readings and book fairs and so on.

I earn 50% of net on any e-books sold, 10% on print (possibly more if I sell them myself, depending how much I charge), 50% on e-library copies, and 50% on audio books. A Time and a Place has earned me a total of $5989.68 since July 2017 when it first came out. Factor in the cost of purchasing books at a discount from the publisher to resell, all the marketing and promotion I do to supplement what my publisher does, along with treating myself to attending one writer’s convention per year, and I’m not exactly getting rich. Actually, technically I’m in the red, if I’m honest about how much I’ve spent on writing related activities since I began all this.  

So yeah, I don’t think I could call A Time and a Place a huge success financially so far.

It’s fared better on the critical front. Reviews have been mostly positive.

On Goodreads, it has been rated 42 times, accompanied by 23 reviews. It currently averages 4.35 out of 5, consisting of twenty-four 5 star reviews, thirteen 4 star reviews, four 3 star reviews,  one 2 star review and one 1 star review. It’s been added to 100 bookshelves, including 45 To-Read shelves.

23 of those 45 ratings have been accompanied by reviews. The reviews range from positive: “Mahoney writes with a practised wit,” “I loved this mesmerising audiobook with its non stop action and adventure,” and “A brilliant, often hilarious, thoughtful and amazing read,” to not so positive: “The second half of the book got a bit muddled for me.” “I think that the author was a bit too ambitious,” and “one of the least likeable protagonists I’ve read in some time.” 

On Amazon.ca it has been reviewed four times. All of those have been 5 star reviews.

On Amazon.com it has been reviewed twelve times (one 3 star review, two 4 star reviews, and nine 5 star reviews).

On Amazon.co.uk, it has been reviewed two times (both 5 star reviews)

Barnes and Noble has two reviews, one 3 star and one 5 star.

On Library Thing it has garnered six reviews (two 5 star, two 4 star, one 3 star and one 2 star, averaging 3.57 stars).

There are a few other reviews out there as well, mostly positive, a couple less so, on blogs and Audible. Some are replicated on Goodreads.

Out of the approximately eighty people who have rated the book, I personally know, am related to, or have met (at least once) around twenty. The rest are complete strangers to me. Personally knowing or having met those who have rated the book has been no guarantee of a positive review; three acquaintances have given A Time and a Place three star reviews.  

A Time and a Place has also been reviewed professionally by Publishers Weekly, who gave it a largely positive review when it first came out employing such words as “skillfully,” “entertaining,” and “great” to describe the writing, but the reviewer also discouraged me from getting too fat a head by suggesting that “occasional segments… distract or feel a little overdone.”

The book is currently being carried in seventeen libraries around the world according to WorldCat, in libraries ranging from Austin, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin to Rangiora, New Zealand, and at least three Canadian libraries that I know of, possibly more (despite having only sold one e-library edition; most libraries appear to have purchased print editions).

Does any of this matter? Of course! Otherwise I wouldn’t have written about it.  🙂  Also, I just thought some folks, especially fellow writers just starting out, might find it interesting.

Does it REALLY matter?

Of course not.

But it sure is a great way to procrastinate.

One final thought. Here’s a great Ted Talk from Albert-László Barabási on how to increase your chances of success in any field, writing included.

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