Are Amazon Reviews Bogus?

Interesting and lively discussion back on Goodreads.com regarding all those wonderful stars trailing the best-selling books.

Neil (of “Shut Up and Read”) started it all in December 2013 when he ranted, “Are all Amazon reviews bogus???…Some reviews are so obviously fake, shills, they must think the readers are stupid. …”

Having read the posts and feeling fairly strongly about it myself given the degree to which I’d worked to get any stars at all, noted that I spot read reviews; usually a couple rated 5, but also rely on the lesser rated for some good insight into the book. I felt that the book descriptions don’t always accurately describe the book and the title can be deceiving.

I appreciate honest and detailed reviews for the manuscripts I’ve published for my grandfather and likewise try to be very honest in my reviews of the books I’ve read–and I’ve read quite few; some good–some not so. In view of the time it takes to write a decent review on the books I thoroughly enjoy, I might rate but will not generally spend the time to review one I didn’t care for. I suspect many do the same, although in reading the reviews left by others, usually find a consensus of the same two or three stars I would give confirming my judgment of the book.

My problem here is that if I don’t leave a review for the book I didn’t care for (and that seems to be the norm), the author is deprived of the problems I perceived. The same applies to the books I’ve published. I didn’t understand the motives behind a two-star rating which left me wondering how to fix a problem I’m unaware exists. Of course it’s hard to actually print those harsh words for someone else knowing the blood, sweat, and tears that comprise a manuscript. As Ken from Goodreads wrote“I’ll read the bad reviews first and see if they have anything valid to say. You can usually tell if it’s real. Sometimes a bad review will complain about something that I consider an attribute and that’s makes me want to read the book. I don’t really trust 5-star reviews any more.” Continue reading “Are Amazon Reviews Bogus?”

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Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasures in Maine

Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasure in MaineAvast and Ahoy, Matey! The book written by Theodore Parker Burbank, “Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasure in Maine” was an eye-opener. I can’t find the research to explain why it seems the propensity of schooners to sink is over-whelmingly more so than your average yawl, ketch or cutter, but reading his book would tend to scare me off even a multi-million dollar yacht. There were, no doubt, many more schooners plying the world’s oceans than barques or brigs.

Originally, schooners were gaff-rigged, and these were described often in my grandfather’s sailing adventures. Schooners would commonly have two masts, although there again, the schooners described by my grandfather usually noted three. Popular because of their windward ability and speed, they were used for everything from traditional fishing to slaving and privateering–(gulp!!)–also described more than once by the same Stanley McShane.

Of course, many were used to carry cargo, as varied as spices to lumber and were also comfortable on the high seas as well as coastal runs and large inland bodies of water.

Ted  BurbankTed Burbank takes us back to the beginning, describing the ships of the “Golden Age of Piracy” and debunks some pirate myths. Interesting chapters on pirates, including the famous Captain Kidd, who it turns out never really was a pirate!

Burbank then takes us through the shipwrecks from the South Coast and Mid-Coast to Penobscot Bay (New Ireland).

While the focus of Burbank’s book is of pirates, I loved the chapters on treasure in and off shore of Maine and the many neat pictures. It’s obvious he spent a lot of time in research and pulled it all together in a fascinating study of pirates and their ships off the Maine coast. Enjoy watching those waves hit the beach? Love watching those ships? Can you smell that sea air? This book will benefit by the help of a good proofreader, but it’s a fun read and sure gives you the taste for lobster! Elginshire

Calvin Many Wolves Potter

Calvin Many Wolves Potter

goodreads_icon_32x32-032d59134a33b2b7a83151dec051b8f3Twelve year old Calvin Potter had had enough of his abusive Pennsylvania father; he couldn’t stand it any longer. Stealing quietly out of the door early one morning with little more than the clothes on his back, Calvin begins a journey into another life punctuated by the walk of his life, incredible endurance, and unbelievable pain. Calvin awakened to the care of the gentle Falling Star and attentive Spirit Wind and began the change from white to the Dakota of Minnesota. Running Fox quickly becomes a boyhood friend and mentor and the young boys of the tribe enfold and foster a bond of friendship and respect. Calvin is adopted into the family of Strong Eagle and White Cloud and their daughter, Red Leaf, and slowly and carefully learns the language, the ways, and the respect of the rest of the tribe as he is indoctrinated into the tribe and leaves Calvin behind to become Many Wolves. Many Wolves participates in tribal activities as seasons and years evolve until it is apparent the very way of life of “the people” is threatened by the encroaching white man and the severe negative impact their civilization has on the native peoples. Strong Eagle has wisely forced Many Wolves back into the white population to help salvage the situation between the peoples, to get Many Wolves out of harms way, and to bring about his assimilation into the growing white population. Failure to follow through with agreements to alleviate hardships and misunderstandings produce hard feelings on both sides, until the situation becomes so dire that flash point occurs. The native peoples are starving and have few options open to them as their centuries old way of life begins to unravel. The situation deteriorates into forced massive movement and exodus of large populations of all tribes of the Dakota Nation while 38 of their young men are brought up on charges in acts of retaliation and face an incredibly sad ending to a remarkable life. Many Wolves as Calvin has been unable to salvage the situation to his overwhelming sorrow and finds himself neither red nor white. Lost between worlds, Calvin begins a journey back to his “borning” family to try and discover where he belongs. But after so many years, a journey of boy to man to another world, can he ever go back?

What Makes a Survivor?

Free My Heart of Grief to Love

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I had a chance to interview Sandra Moore Bernsen in Quartzsite, Arizona, where she was hosting an author signing event at Readers Oasis Books. Sandra wrote Free My Heart of Grief to Love-A Journey from Loss to Joy, a memoir of devastating loss and recovery.

Born in Minnesota, the financially stressed family moved to Montana where she later found the “bad boy” to whom she gave her heart. The antithesis of Sandra, she and Rich married and eventually moved to Idaho where they established a life of their own after welcoming their two sons. Ray was their first born son. Patrick followed, but at 8 days old went from being a happy, healthy boy to one of multiple and massive health issues–forcing the family for an extended period of time to concentrate on acquiring his care where they could and eventually losing him to the devastating illness that ravaged his little body.

Ray had his own issues, but borne of the eventual loss of his younger brother and that of his beloved German Shepherds, Sam and Alf, he turned inward for solace and took it upon himself to garner the protection he felt he needed. The protection accidentally turned deadly one evening in the kitchen as he fixed himself a late-night snack. Roused by the sharp report in the kitchen, both mother and father discovered their son had suffered a fatal head wound. Within 10 short weeks of the loss of Ray, Sandra’s mother succumbed to her own health issues.

Devastated, both parents grieved in their own way until Rich was discovered to have contracted acute leukemia–one so rare his doctors were at a loss to create an appropriate treatment regime. Sandra took her husband home and once again faced the emotional turmoil of laying to rest another loved one. Continue reading “What Makes a Survivor?”

Just the Pits–Isn’t!

The latest in a Hetta Coffey series, Jinx Schwartz has done it again with “Just the Pits“. Hetta is a single female engineer who tends to get in over her head after being hired to investigate what appears to be over-whelming expenditures on an already expensive mining operation. That she quickly begins confronting problems is apparently not wholly unusual, but she has a super network of friends who are ready and willing to come to her aid including a long-distance boyfriend somewhere mysteriously off on his own classified missions. Among the comical sub-plots is her struggle to come to terms with turning the big 4-0 and granting her BFF Jan the lavish male attention her stunning long-legged, blonde good looks garners without rancor. Endearing is her plot to rescue (and keep grounded?) a dog she names Po Thang whose major force in life is to find and devour his next meal. Her general obvious love and appreciation of the local Baja location and population stems from her extensive real life experiences while piloting a 45′ yacht she calls home. The mine that is the subject of the plot is but one of many in the area and her failure to see any masculine dominated industry or activity as being a challenge includes a hilarious description of her maneuvering a monster dirt hauler in the middle of some serious seismic activity. She wraps it all up in snappy, witty and downright laugh-out-loud dialogue and concludes with a satisfying ending. I figured if I enjoyed reading it that much, so would my hubby and got him to read it as well. He loved it! Now, how can we score another of her “Just” Hetta books? They are too much fun!

You gotta check out this book–either in print or digital download! Just the Pits

“Crystal Clean” – A Mother’s Struggle Out of the Meth Drug Under-World

Kim is not a stupid woman. She is not the product of a severely abusive childhood. Kim is the girl next door or your daughter’s BFF. It’s impossible to discern, looking at this unpresupposing person, that she is a hard-core meth addict and a drug dealer of some stature, smoothly negotiating meth buys. She is a respected and financial force to be reckoned with in the under-world and can hold her own dealing with small or large time drug operators.

Kimberly Wollenburg unfolds the story of her growing addiction in her biographical memoir, “Crystal Clean,” laying bare her motivation as she gradually escalates into the active and upper echelon drug under-world of Idaho, introducing us to each successively flawed character in her drug oriented world with unerring descriptions of dealers and users in graphic detail.

Kim is a single mother of a special needs son who becomes the driving force that helps her fight demons most of us cannot fathom. Separate from her beloved son, is it possible to hold a love interest based on the love of drugs rather than each other?

Can you actually survive a highly elevated tolerance for such a devastatingly pervasive drug as meth and still triumph in a new life? “Crystal Clean” will have you on the edge; you must know if she can pull it off–one more time–and survive.

crystal_clean

Book Review – What Is So Hard About That?

I’m onto the next phase in the science of marketing, promoting, and publishing industry and that appears to be reading and reviewing books either in your own genre or that of the others in your group. As I’ve mentioned before, I joined the Idaho Author Community (IAC) this year as I’d hit the wall in my limited ability to find avenues to market and promote the sea-adventures I’d published posthumously for my grandfather.

Apparently not the only one lacking years of publishing industry and marketing knowledge, the exchange of thoughts and suggestions at our bi-monthly meetings have been an invaluable source of ideas. It’s okay that I’d exhausted my source; everyone there has another.

Reading voraciously has always come easy, so it was the suggestion of exchanging, reading, and evaluating each others books that came as a welcome solution to the one common problem many of us share–lack of reviews for our own works. The authors in the Community each have a genre of their own from (my own) historical fiction to fantasy to children’s books. Fiction and non-fiction, memoirs, and science fiction all take center stage from time to time depending on the IAC venue.

How can you have a downside to an unlimited free supply of books readily available on most any subject? Uh Oh…..now comes the hard part–the review! Yes, I know most of these authors. We’ve all struggled mightily bringing our books to the market. They are our babies. We powdered, fed, and carried our babies close to our hearts until they were delivered into the hands of the unbiased reading public.

So, to conscientiously deliver a dispassionate, neutral review of another’s book may not be all that simple. I’ve had to employ “tough love” with a consistent, impartial criteria.

 What do I specifically look for when analyzing a book? Continue reading “Book Review – What Is So Hard About That?”