Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Wolves of Midwinter

The Wolves of Midwinter
by Anne Rice
(Knopf / 0-385-34996-3 / 978-0-385-34996-3 / October 2013 / 400 pages / $25.95 hardcover / $19.49 Amazon / $7.99 Kindle)

The Wolves of Midwinter is Anne Rice's 34th book and the 27th I have read. She is easily my favorite fiction author. This book currently has 766 reviews at Amazon, so Ms. Rice obviously does not need my help to sell her books in huge quantities. This is far from my favorite of her books, so why am I taking the time to review it? The answer to that question will appear after the following brief summary.

After decades of writing about vampires and witches, Anne Rice finally decided to add their best pals to her repertoire, werewolves. Of course I like werewolves at least as much as vampires and witches, so I read The Wolf Gift, the first in this new series, last year. As a longtime fan of both the author and the genre, I rate The Wolf Gift at approximately #15 and The Wolves of Midwinter about #18 among the Anne Rice books that I have read. The head howler is somewhat of an interesting character, but he is certainly no Lestat! The lavish mansion setting hidden in the woods of Northern California is up to Ms. Rice's standard format and the surrounding characters are well developed. The weakness of The Wolves of Midwinter is a storyline that drags on too long in a low level of plot action in several chapters throughout the book. When Anne unleashes the surprises when you least expect them, the old black magic is there, but overall the plot is not as riveting as her best. The author surprised me by releasing another Vampire Chronicle next when I was expecting more from the werewolves. Maybe the pack will stir up more excitement in a future volume.

You may have noticed that I recently reviewed Linda Gould's Handmaidens of Rock and then wrote a second report on Dr. Al past's Two Worlds Daughter. Just before that you might have read one of my most scathing and poignant rants about the current state of publishing. The point is that I intend to tie these posts together in a way you might not expect.

Only Anne and Knopf really know how many copies of The Wolves of Midwinter have been sold, but you can bet it's A LOT. Dr. Past's most recent volume in the Distant Cousin Series has sold moderately in Kindle, but I would guess that I own one of the few copies in print in existence. Linda Gould's latest of four novels has barely sold at all, even though I think it is her best work yet. For the record, Handmaidens has two reviews at Amazon and Two Worlds Daughter has thirteen. For comparison purposes, note that my first book, Plastic Ozone Daydream from 2000, has zero reviews! I have never tracked its sales religiously, but I estimate them to be in the neighborhood of 100-150 copies. Al Past has three books with iUniverse and three with CreateSpace. As with my own four/three split, you can identify the publisher by the price. The iU paperbacks are somewhat overpriced, but the CS books are not. All four of Linda Gould's books are with iUniverse.

The error counts of my own books and those of Linda Gould and Al Past have all lessened with each successive release. All three of us began at the top of what was something of an embarrassing heap of books reviewed over the years here at PODBRAM. Those at the bottom of this sordid pile will chill you to the bone as experienced readers, just like facing a werewolf for the first time. Speaking of which, Anne Rice's 34th book contains more errors than I have ever seen in a top-selling, traditionally published hardback! There are errors of every kind: repeated common words, misused spellings of words that are real words that actually mean something else, misuse of tense, and various other types of boo-boos. What do these errors all have in common? They are the sort that appear in books because human eyes did not read and reread and proofread the text before publishing it. There was an obvious reliance on computer programs to find the errors. Was this by Ms. Rice, her editor, or Knopf in general? Who knows? The point is that the error count of The Wolves of Midwinter easily surpassed those of Handmaidens of Rock and Two Worlds Daughter. The corporate downsizing has come home to roost!

What I want to know is what are you going to do about it? When are you going to realize that there are fresh, high-quality authors out there who may not have entered the traditional publishing world back in 1976 when it was relatively easy? When are you going to wake up and realize that just because the latest Anne Rice book has 58 times the reviews as that of Al Past's latest or 95 times that of my Tiddler Invasion or 383 times that of Linda Gould's latest that the traditionally published book by the big-name author is the superior product? Yes, we can make a difference. We may lack the big names and the big distribution to every Barnes & Noble in the country, but we do not lack the writing talent or the drive and dedication to our craft. We can publish a quality product without the help of Knopf or one of their smug pals in their slowly dying industry!

See Also: Linda Gould's Amazon Page
Dr. Al Past's Amazon Page
Floyd M. Orr's Amazon Page

Monday, November 24, 2014

Distant Cousin: Two Worlds Daughter

Distant Cousin: 
Two Worlds Daughter
by Al Past
(CreateSpace / 1-496-13199-1 / 978-1-496-13199-7 / March 2014 / 316 pages / $13.66 paperback / $12.29 Amazon / $2.99 Kindle)

This is not going to be the traditional book review you might expect to find at PODBRAM. This book was reviewed here a couple of months ago. Consider this one a booster shot to encourage further reading of the series! Two Worlds Daughter is the sixth book in the Distant Cousin Series by Dr. Al Past. I have reviewed the books in the series, including this one, at both PODBRAM and Amazon. Therefore this will be the last word that I shall publicly say about Two Worlds Daughter.

I cannot say for certain where I rank this one in relation to the other five. Of course it cannot offer the introductory excitement of the first book, but it is clearly superior to the the second in the series, probably the weakest of the bunch. My second favorite has always been Reincarnation, the third book, and Two Worlds Daughter fails to knock that one out of second place. Of course your opinions are your own and all are subject to personal interpretation. I can state for certain that if you have enjoyed the previous Distant Cousin books, you will be pleased with this one, too.

The focus in this story is clearly on Ana Darcy's daughter and not Ana herself. If there is a weakness in the reading experience, this is most certainly it. Again, your opinion may differ, but as far as I am concerned, most of the magic of the Distant Cousin storyline comes from the central Ana Darcy character. As with many long-running, successful television series, the storyline has to diversify or it dies the death of repetition. On the other hand, the first season of most sitcoms is comparable to the first book in a fiction series. The recapturing of the initial magic is by nature always fleeting.

Dr. Past continues to educate himself on the mechanics of book publishing and the results are obvious. The editing and proofreading mistakes in this edition are practically nonexistent. The design and layout continues to improve as well. I do have a quibble about the cover: the image is too dark and fuzzy.It certainly lacks shelf appeal to the unseasoned reader of the series. This detail and the fact that Ana Darcy is not the leading character are my only complaints. Overall I cannot recommend all the Distant Cousin books enough, including this one. A new reader might skip books 2-5, but a reading of the original Distant Cousin first would definitely be a good idea. The reader needs a good dose of the origin of Ana Darcy and her story to fully comprehend this one. If you want to learn much more about the Distant Cousin Series, be sure to follow the links below. (The two links listed lead to many others.) For several years now, Dr. Past and his work have consistently remained two of the bright spotlights of The PODBRAM Experience!

See Also: Ana Darcy's Blog
Interview with Dr. Al Past
Review of the original Distant Cousin

Friday, November 14, 2014

Handmaidens of Rock

Handmaidens of Rock
by Linda Gould
(iUniverse / 1-491-74543-6 / 978-1-491-74543-4 / October 2014 / 290 pages / $17.95 paperback / $15.61 Amazon / $2.99 Kindle)

There is little that I can say here that was not stated in my review of Linda Gould's earlier book, The Rock Star's Homecoming. You can refer to that review for the flowery prose (see link below). In no uncertain terms, Handmaidens of Rock is Linda's best work yet, easily deserving of five stars. The author has a genuine knack for taking us back to a nostalgic, more starry-eyed era with her novels. Surely Ms. Gould is writing at least somewhat based on her real experiences! The prose is so clear, the plot twists so familiar from that special time.

The story is a familiar one that occurred all across the USA back in the 1968-74 period in which the action is set. A few naive young men start a band in high school and try to develop it into a famous professional outfit. Linda Gould offers a new perspective as the story is told by three girlfriends of the band members. Candy, Hope, and Theda follow their new love interests into college, where some of the band and its entourage are more interested in an education than are others. The relationships intertwine romantically and otherwise as the group finds itself in several unexpected locations ranging from the Apple Studios in London to a California music festival. The plot twists are grounded just enough to be believable in that remarkable era. All the characters, both primary and secondary, are carefully presented with just the right amount of detail. As a lifelong music fan and a concert promoter during that period, I personally lived through similar experiences. Linda Gould is a genuinely accomplished writer who deserves recognition.

Do not be put off by the iUniverse imprint! As with this author's previous books, Handmaidens of Rock is a thoroughly professional work in every way, from its style to its editing to its proofreading. Typos and other boo-boos are practically nonexistent in this book. The cover is appropriate. The back cover blurb is informative. The special title fonts and layout are exceptional for an iU product. The type face is not too large and neither are the margins, as they are in so many products from this publisher. What you get is a real book offering genuine, professionally produced nostalgic entertainment! Few readers have yet discovered the writing of Linda Gould. The rest simply do not realize what they are missing. Handmaidens of Rock easily makes the top ten list of my favorite books that I have read and reviewed for PODBRAM.