Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Names of the Dead: A Pedal To The Metal Thriller

From the moment the first chapter of Names of the Dead ended, I knew Connor Montrose was going to be one hell of a character. Defiant, head-strong, and driven by vengeance. He’s an exceptionally written character with the swagger of a CIA operative and the fighting chops of a killing machine. From there, it’s hard to tell if he’s the good guy.

The narrative style is frantic and restless, but never confusing. This is magnified by the reader’s access to Montrose’s state of mind. The inner dialogues not only make us privy to Montrose’s innermost thoughts, they also make us feel that we’re part of this intricate web of lies and deceit. It’s as immersive as playing a first person shooter – pumping bullets, maiming enemies, and leaving a trail of dead bodies as location shifts from Rome to Zurich to Paris to Tehran. Add the involvement of abbreviated agencies in double cross and conspiracies, then you have a sensational international thriller in your hand.

Author Mark Leggatt is on the driver seat, never taking his foot off the gas as the story unravels at breakneck speed. Buckle up!   ★★★ 5/5 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Girl Who Broke The Rules: Dark, Twisty, and Relentless

Let me explain.

All the elements I love in a crime thriller are masterfully depicted against the backdrop of the seedy underbelly of Amsterdam.

The suspense is relentless; the characters unyielding.

Shifting timelines and switching points of view offer reprieve from the most gruesome depiction of madness and perversion.

The feverish storytelling never lets up and the palpable sense of danger and menace lingers like a shadow with a scythe.

Then there’s Georgina McKenzie. George. The feisty and sometimes irreverent heroine who brings emotional turmoil to an already besieged Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen, who’s at his breaking point.

For a heroine, she’s not all that likeable. Therein lies the rub. It’s difficult to reconcile the fact that I love this sequel so much, but have a hard time “liking” George. But liking a main character is never a rule to enjoying a twisted macabre tale. If it were, I certainly broke it (ha! See what I did there?)

Likeable or not, George is a compelling character that not only adds intrigue to an already twisted story, but also thrusts readers into a literary quandary: “Does a character have to be likeable?”

Combining a dark, twisty plot with skillful writing makes The Girl Who Broke The Rules an absolutely gripping thriller! ★★★ 5/5 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Reading Funk and Adventures in Beta Reading

So I was in a reading funk. It was so bad that according to Goodreads, I'm 28 books behind schedule of my 80-book target for 2015. 

Amazon is largely to blame. Because when your 60+ reviews are unceremoniously and unfairly pulled, you are gutted and you lose your street cred (if I ever had one, to begin with). 

And you lose your review mojo.

Then beta reading happened. 

A few days ago, a brilliant author asked me "When are you gonna beta read for me?"

Just so you know, I'm not a beta reader*. I've been invited by wonderful authors in the past, but I respectfully declined because I feel that I lack the necessary skills to beta read. Besides, when you read deliberately to find errors, it just sucks all the fun in reading. 

But this author isn't strict. All she wanted was a male perspective. 

Easy peasy.

The reading part, that is. The critiquing, not so much.

I found myself asking these questions before writing/sending my feedback.

1. How do you separate the fanboy from the critic? (Yes, I like this author very much).

2. How do you balance honesty and tact? (You have got to be cruel to be kind?)

3. Can the author handle a negative feedback? And can I handle the backlash? (Let's not get postal here.)
"Overheard from writer & reader"

4. Why isn't there a 'Beta Reading for Dummies'?  (but this beta reader etiquette is a great guide)

5. Is there an easy way to break an author's heart? (James Ingram's answer is 'No')

6. Can our relationship survive this? (Can we still be friends?)

Of course, it's not as bad as it sounds. I assure you that no ninja was hurt in the beta reading process. No hearts broken, no egos bruised (or maybe just a tad?). 

Beta reading is part of the author's writing process. It's great to experience the author-reader dynamics, in its very vulnerable state. It's not just about finding errors in story continuity or pointing out gaping plot holes, it's also a chance to better understand the author's creative process. Once you have this understanding, you'll have a greater appreciation of the final work.

And yes, it's also an exercise in diplomacy and tact.

Will I do it  again? With the right author, yes, gladly.

*Read Fletcher Delancey's Ode to the Beta Reader because it's cool.