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Book Review | A. Michael Marsh

Category Archives: Book Review

Kirkus Fully Booked Podcast

Earlier this year I posted Kirkus’ review of Survived. It was a very positive review from a publication that is notorious for not pulling punches and holding a high bar. Naturally, I was stoked. Who wouldn’t be? As much as it sounds awesome to be one of those aloof, too-cool-for-school writers who chain smokes and drinks whiskey while clacking away at a typewriter and just doesn’t give a heck what you think — that’s not me. I write stories for other people to read, so I do care how my work is received. Obviously, I’ll never achieve universal popularity, but I love it when I see a positive review or get an email from a reader. Also, I don’t smoke, get hangovers too easily, and using a typewriter in this day and age is masochistic (I learned to type on a typewriter, it was awful).

Point is, I got the review from Kirkus, rode that high for a while, then moved on.

A couple months ago, Kirkus reached out to me to tell me that Survived had been singled out as one of their “Indie Books Worth Discovering,” a category of books reserved for indie titles that were in their top ten percent of favorites for the year. Awesome! Along with that I had the opportunity to plug my book in the Kirkus Fully Booked podcast. Sweet! So, last week I did a short interview which should be part of the January 8th edition of Fully Booked. If you’re one of the many podcast listeners, listen for an interview with a bestselling author, and then stay tuned for four minutes of me babbling incoherently.

For real. Listen, I’m not an extroverted person and I live in a general state of nervousness, like one of those dogs that pees when it’s really happy. Or sad. Or scared. Or when you bring food. When the editor called me on Skype for the interview, I was already humming along in a state of Maximum Anxiety. He was super nice, but I just couldn’t get it together. It went something like this:

Editor: Okay, A. Michael, we don’t have a ton of time, so try to keep your answers short so we can get to as many questions as possible.

Me: You got it. No problem.

Editor: Starts recording. Asks first question.

Me: Rambles like a methhead.

Good grief. I don’t even remember what the hell I said, or what questions he asked. All I know is that I made words with my mouth-hole. Hopefully, this interview doesn’t actually have a reverse effect and discourage people from checking out Survived.

Despite that, I’m still excited that Kirkus gave me this opportunity, and I’m hoping the actual interview won’t be as bad as I think it is. Fingers crossed.

Survived – The First Review!

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Reviews can be tricky. You need reviews (ideally positive) to get people to read a book, but, you also need people to read a book in order to get reviews. It’s a vicious cycle that is the bane of many an author.

Unless you’re already a powerhouse author, a celebrity, or the child of a publishing executive, chances are that the New York Times isn’t going to come knocking on your door for the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of your latest tale. That’s okay. It’s just life as an author. Everyone has to earn their stripes.

What it means to authors like yours truly is that we have to engage with unbiased third parties to review our books. For the most part these are trade publications that specialize in reviewing new books — folks like Kirkus, Clarion, and Publisher’s Weekly. These reviews, when positive, can let readers know what to expect from a book, hopefully, enticing them to read and leave a review of their own on sites like Goodreads or Amazon.

Which is why I was absolutely stoked to see the first trade review for Survived come back. Foreword Clarion reviewed the novel ahead of its release and awarded it five out of five stars. Check out the review in its entirety here: https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/survived/

I’m setting up a Goodreads giveaway for the book as well, it should be up in a couple of weeks. I’ll also be posting a page for more information about the novel soon.

Survived is scheduled to launch on September 1st.

Some Love for The Changed

Reviews are important. People need a trusted source (not from the author’s homies or cousins) to get more information about a book beyond what they get in the sales copy and flavor text. Sure, not all reviews will be applicable to all readers as tastes vary widely, but overall it’s a helpful tool. When it comes to getting your work into the hands of readers there really is no substitute.

There are some little known nuances when it comes to getting reviews, though. Most readers aren’t aware of this because, well, why should they care, but getting a novel reviewed is actually sort of difficult. If you want a trade publication to review a book that isn’t being published by an already well known author or from a juggernaut publisher, it can take a lot of time and money to make it happen. Because of this, reader reviews become even more important to today’s authors. There are way more books than there are trade publications so we rely heavily on the opinion of readers to help others navigate a marketplace stuffed full of content and find the books they’ll love.

Point is, I truly and deeply appreciate when readers write reviews. It takes their time and attention to do so and it means a great deal to me when they do. Earlier this week I received a message from Hayley Cosgrove, showing me her review of The Changed which appeared in a recent issue of her university’s library circular (on the first page, no less!). You can check it out here: What We Read 201510

So here’s a big shout out to Hayley for sharing her review and pimping my book for all of her university’s reading community to see!

If you’ve ever shared some love for The Changed drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.

Pretty Awesome News

Yesterday I received a review on The Changed from Foreward Clarion.  For those who haven’t heard of them Foreword Clarion is a book review publication, like Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly.  The purpose of their publication is to provide critical feedback on available titles for the good people who purchase books for libraries and the few surviving bookstores.  These publications aren’t known for pulling punches or treating authors with kid gloves.  Their reviewers provide an unbiased opinion, which is exactly why purchasers care what they have to say.

I’m not one of those writers that labors under the impression that every sentence I type is pure gold.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I work very hard to improve with every story I write.  To me, one of the greatest gifts a storyteller can give someone is a sense of wonder, and the feeling that they’ve been taken to a new world — even if it’s just for a couple hundred pages.  My writing process is a series of emotional highs and lows, writing, re-writing, re-writing, more writing, then followed by re-writing.  It’s hard to leave the baggage of all that work behind when you submit something that has been such a large part of your life for review to a complete stranger.  When I put my work out there like that, I can only hope that the reader will care about my story as much as I did.

So, needless to say, I was ecstatic, surprised, and maybe a little shocked when they rated The Changed five out of five stars, and wrote a glowing review about my novel.

Just wanted to share, because this really made my week.

Review – The Last Wish

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Full disclosure?  I’m a bandwagon reader on this one.  I played the Witcher 2 for XBox 360 and was completely immersed in the story.  After beating it (the first time around) and watching the credits roll, I saw that it was based on a series of novels.

The hell you say!

One Kindle download later, here I am.  I’m going to tell you that I loved this book, and yes, I’ll admit that my love of the game may have influenced me.  Let me explain my take on the story, then you can make up your own mind about whether or not it’s for you.

The novel is structured as a series of short stories that progressively weave together.  I love this style when it’s done well, and  Andrzej handles it deftly.  In a marketplace where publishers seem to believe that readers are too stupid to understand a tale that isn’t strictly linear in nature, it’s nice to see some deviation.  There is a definite logic to the structure of these smaller stories, though.  The depth to which each story brings you into Geralt’s world increases with subsequent tale.

In regard to the world, it’s a sword-and-horse fantasy land with some fun twists.  The dynamic between the humans and non-humans, the Witcher and the monsters, is very well thought out and executed skillfully.  There’s enough of our own myth and legend to make a connection, while it deviates to a degree that provides some surprises.  I never found myself feeling like I was reading a text book or on the receiving end of an info-dump.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The novel left me wanting to experience more.

Where I think  Andrzej may lose some U.S. readers is in his choice of point of view.  Classic, third-person omniscient storytelling is just fine by me.  Many readers of genre fiction, especially older genre fiction, recognize the style and connect well with it.  However, in recent years this has fallen out of fashion with our publishers and readers.  Most stories these days will be told in deep-third or first-person.  For readers who are attached to that style of story-telling, third person may seem too clinical, or *gasp* boring.

The dialogue is very heavy, and fills a good amount of page space.  However, since I liked the dialogue for the most part this wasn’t an issue.  Action sequences are fast paced and well-written.  Among my favorites was the encounter with the Sylvan midway through the book.

Thematically, the story has a lot to say about people, our society, and how we conduct ourselves in regard to each other and nature.   It wasn’t just a good story, it was a good story with a purpose.

Book Review – Ocean of Dust

Fantasy readers, don’t pass up this engrossing tale.

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I ganked the Amazon thumbnail – please don’t sue.

In Ocean of Dust, we follow Lissa, a young girl forced into a life of slavery aboard a mysterious vessel which traverses the world’s oceans.  As possibilities of escape diminish, she’s caught in a foreign culture full of strong, conflicting personalities, and strange traditions.  Lissa makes allies and enemies alike as she explores the world aboard ship, and struggles to discover the source of the strange influence the ocean itself has over her.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was the seamless melding of story and world-building.Ing’s world is unique, well thought out, and wholly alive.  Better yet, it’s shown to us at an even pace, letting the reader drink in and absorb the unique properties and physics of the universe as we adventure with Lissa.  Colorful characters populate the story, each one with their own distinctive voice and part to play.

Many publishers are putting their eggs in the urban fantasy basket, or else staying to the tried and true swords-and-horses subgenre.  Ing’s story doesn’t fit easily into either one of these categories, which, for me, made it a welcome departure from the norm.  It works as a YA tale, as the characters and plot will be relatable to young readers.  I definitely wouldn’t pigeonhole the story as a “YA only” read, though.  Adults who have enjoyed series such as Harry Potter and His Dark Materials would be in good company here.

The conclusion of the story is satisfying, while hinting at the possibility of returning Lissa’s story to us again in the future.  I hope this is the case.