What's The Blog About, Alfie?

We are avid fans of literature, good literature. We prefer great writing, we'll settle for very good work, but we cannot abide anything less. We will stop reading a book if the author demonstrates mediocrity, writes incompetently, or, worse yet, simply loses our interest. That said, we will always give you our honest opinions about the books we've listened to on Podiobooks.com. We'll tell you why the great ones are great, and why the forgettable ones should be avoided.

We hope, when we've reviewed enough, you will come to this blog to see if a particular book is worthy of your time. We plan to be frank. You have come here to elicit our opinion and we shall not disappoint. Additionally, we hope this blog becomes a resource for PB.com authors to read honest and objective reviews of their efforts; no smoke blown-up the butt at any time. We have observed over time that reviews left on an author's site or iTunes are basically of two types. The first is the pie-eyed-hyperbolic-praise version of a review by a real fan. While excellent for the ego of said author, this form of assessment aids neither the potential listener nor the writer's development. The second type is the snarky-hit-and-run-slap-in-the-face negative review which may contain the kernel of an insight, but is actually significantly less valuable than the first type. Ours will be decidedly neither polar extreme. We will be as fair and complete as possible. An unavoidable off-shoot, indeed a desirable off-shoot, the clever reader will quickly appreciate is that we will undoubtably be squewering a few sacred-cows. If that happens, please keep in mind the fable of The Emporer's New Clothes and the fact that we would not review them in a less-than-stellar manner if they did not deserve it.

Our reviews are not placed on PB.com, iTunes, or any other public site. We do not wish to embarrass or ridicule any particular authors. Many of the authors are our friends, or at least were up till they read our review. We dearly appreciate that each PB.com author has poured their creative guts out for all to see with very little chance of monetary reward. This is not easy. We will not generally say anything but positives on public sites as we, in our alter ego, want the authors, even the poor ones, to have their moment in the bright-shiny sun. At the very least we want them to be happy little fish in their little ponds.

Finally a term defined, a dreaded term, one you wish never to see, one which strikes despair in the heart of any author - WSRH. This is short for "We Stopped Reading Here". Background. Our less than sainted father was a college English professor. When grading essays and term papers, especially freshman courses, we observed him many a cruel time to slash across the page with his red pen. Just below the horrific line, he would write, "I stopped reading here... F." Clearly, papa was a professor, not an editor, so he was an I while we are, well, a we. Hence, ISRH transforms into WSRH. However you begin it, it is not a good thing. Avoid writing something which earns WSRH, you will not be happy with yourself.

Your comments on our comments are most welcome. You may be as frank as we are. Contrary opinions, supported by rational argument not finger-wagging, will help the prospective PB.com readers find the books which are right for them. Bottom line: our comments plus your comments, along with author rebuttals, will in the end benefit us all, and help PB.com listeners choose wisely.

Based on the success of this blog, we have started a Forum where you can share your insights and reviews. The more information and discussion, the better informed we will all be.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Astreya Triolgy - Smooth Sailing Into Beautiful Waters

After a long while, we have found a podcast to crow about.  The trilogy actually began a year ago, but we've held off until now rating it.  The Astreya Triology (TAT) has proven itself to be consistently entertaining and compelling.  Strong work, author Seymore Hamilton!  Here's his blurb:

          When Astreya is 17, his widowed mother gives him his father's knife, riddling notebook and bracelet. Searching for the meaning of his strange inheritance he sails south into adventure: he endures storm at sea, betrayal, slavery, night escapes, false accusations and knife fights, but with the help of loyal friends he also begins to find love and the chance to discover his destiny.

NARRATION:  The author narrates the novel solo.  Mr. Hamilton does a yeoman's job of it.  He possesses a rich, clear voice, and his British accent is perfect for this tale of the sea.  Further, his character voices are interestingly varied and quite consistent.  Again, strong work.  As a solo-narration, lacking the complexity of a multiple actor production, we cannot give the full 20 points, but 18 are definitely in order.

EDITTING/TECHNICAL:  As we have stressed in the past, this is a tough catagoury.  There are so many professional-level production efferts that it is hard to shine in this sky.  That said, TAT is nicely done.  There are a few gaffs, missed-edits, and stutters, but not enough to detract from the stroy.  Plain and simple, but well executed.  We dispense 16 points here.

ORIGINALITY OF STORY:  TAT is a pleasant tale, but it does hold to several estabished, perchance worn, themes.  The, in our vaunted opinion, overused monomyth, or hero's journey format is central to TAT.  Also, TAT is a rather straightforward coming-of-age story.  There is more than a little Peter Pan, Master and Commander, and Horatio Hornblower than we'd have liked to see.  However, that negative said, TAT is certainly compelling enough to hold the listener's/reader's interest through several installments.  We will cut 14 points from the pie-of-originality for TAT.

QUALITY OF WRITING:  As frequent flyers on this airline/blog know, this is our pet peeve, our soapbox upon which we bellow, perchance sanctimoniously.  To this end, overall, TAT is well written.  The plot, as alluded to above, is maybe a bit too predictable.  The characters are, however, well constructed and consistent.  Above all, the good-guys are likable and the bad-guys are despicable.  This is a good thing.  The hero, maybe, overthink matters and he needs, definitely, to kiss the girl a little sooner, and with a bit less angst, but these are tolerable.  There are plot flaws which detract, such as why on earth Gar didin't get off the scaffolding sooner or tell Astryea more, sooner.  Maybe Gar, like us, procrastinates to a fault.  All-in-all, we will award 14 points for the writing itself.

WOW FACTOR:  TAT certainly has one.  Mr. Hamilton's knowledge of the sea, of sailing, and his ability to convey it meaningfully is a real plus.  We could, at times, smell the salt air.  We grant 10 points for wowing us so.

TOTAL:  TAT racks up a total of 72 points, a very good score.  We can, without reservation, recommend it to you, the consuming public.  We look forward to more winners from Mr. Hamilton.

for further info; http://seymourhamilton.com/?page_id=15

Monday, June 1, 2015

Well, We Were Trying To Help. WSRHs For Planet Secrets and Hidden Harbor

Well, our intentions were pure.  We elected to go to PB.com, select a few works, and review them for you, in spite of any trepidation we might have hade based on the podcast's teasers.
No good deed, it would appear to confirm, goes unpunished.  From the "new release section we downloaded Hidden Hrbor (HH) and Planet Secrets (PS).
As our close and personal friend George Takei would say, oh myyyy!  Both got very early WSRHs.  If the reader will recall, a WSRH is a signal that we bailed on a podcast based on what we heard up to that point.  The remainder of the podcast might be nothing short of brilliant, but we, and we suspect a large portion of the listening public, will never know.  In any creative writing class, the teacher stresses over and over one important point.  Hook the audience.  Make them buy in and want to turn the page.  If the author does not, they will lose reader's atention, and their purchases.  And so it is with audiobooks.
To the heart of it.  HH, by Jay Smith, held our deer-in-the-headlight attention for maybe five minutes.  The flaws it suffered were, to our ear, too legion to justify continued listening.  First, HH started with the scene where the young Bruce Wayne is leaving the threater late at night with his parents.  They stray into a seedy part of town, fishes out of water.  Mayhem promised to ensue. Ah, Mr. Smith, that's the start of Batman, and the first Batman movie.  We mean, it is rather blatently the start of Batman, both in print and on screen.  Furthermore, the lack of judgment displayed by the father in HH is significantly worse than that of the senior Mr. Wayne.  No one is that dumb.  Period.  So, based on a derivative and hard to buy into plot, we had to redline this one early.
PS, by Trisha Wilson, was actually not quite as appealing as HH.  The narrative mainly did PS in.  Colby Trax (who ever that is) must have been paid to produce PS.  If so, Colby would not only be the name of a tasteless cheese, but the name of a professional production house.  A professional production house should know better than to produce such an unacceptable narration.  The male voice speaks exclusively in a harsh, penetrating whisper.  Who speaks for pages on end in a harsh whisper?  No one.  As to content in PS, there was not possible to buy into.  The hook was that the narrator wanted to stay in college for free, forever.  Not a good hook.  There was no BFF factor.  Further, in the short portion we could bear, there was zero build-up, or escalating storyline.  No advancing action.  We suggest Ms. Wilson join a local writer's group and hone her writing in that venue.  Please recall Hemingway's cynical snark that a writer's first million words are shit.  After that, hopelly, Papa would conceed that excellent writing could occur.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We Are Still Here - And Waiting...

It is not that we have evaporated, or anything vaguely similar.  No, we are waiting for something on PB.com worth commenting upon.  We would love to reveal a diamond in the rough, and we would - as you know - love even more to lambaste something.  But... nothing.  We'll keep checking.  *headdesk*

Sunday, December 14, 2014

As Time Goes By

  We have to post that we are not perished from this earth!  Over the last year we, hungry always for a good tale (mind out of gutter - we refer to a story, you libidinous fool), have checked out PB.com often.  We even started a few podcasts.  Alas, they were too poor to even post as WSRH's (The Box, oh that boring boring Box, for example).  We have found no winners for quite some time.   As we have been following PB.com for many years - almost from its inception - we began to wonder where the good stories were.  Had the spring of gifted podcasts indeed dried-up?
  We came to the conclusion that yes, indeed, the top-notch people who used to contribute along with any excellent new blood are missing.  What we see in the PB.com titles now, judging from the blurbs which promise pathetic payoff, are, oh let us be kind and call them "second-level talents."  Acutally, many offerings seem void of talent - the rantings of some loner held-up in their room narrating off the top of their empty head.
  The reasons for this shift from the likes of Lowell, Robertson, Bartlett, and Sigler is actually fairly straight forward.  Up until many four-five years ago, formats such as PB.com was one of the few outlets for indie authors to be heard.  Traditional publishing networks were closed to them as tightly as the gates of Fort Knox.  Now, authors who would have had to resort to PB.com are available on Kindle Unlimited and have trade paperbacks from CreatSpace.  Potential podcasters are now self-publishing and self-promoting and they are rockin' and a rollin'!
  We can state with some certainty that no PB.com author ever made enough money to justify the effort they went to.  One author we know personally has over 20,000 total downloads of his combined works.  Yet, in spite of all that love, he cannot recall his last royalty payment and has probably raned less than ten dollars ever.  So, if an author is going to put-forth great effort, why not do so on Amazon, where the payoffs are real, as opposed to providing quality work for freeloaders? Hence, the talent is going elsewhere and the void is filled by the aformentioned "second-tier" of creators.
  Is this good?  Is there justice served?  Who is to blame?  None of the above.  Times change - it's a story as old as time itself.  As the hyper-evolution in technology sweeps us forward and as our entertainment choices morph, somethings fall to Darwin's axe.  Will PB.com suffer the fate of wagon wheel makers and door-to-door salesmen?  Who is to say.  It will be up to PB.com to determine if adequate change on their part is either possible or worth their effort.  But, unless quality people are compensated for their efforts, they will fade away.  Those with choices will leave and those - the "second-tier - without options will remain.
  It's a story as old as time itself.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tincture-Full of Love

As the wise, magnanimous individual we are, we wish to spur you-on into downloading Tincture and it's sequel.  People, this is the real thing!  Subscribe, listen, and be in awe of Tincture.  There, we're placed you on notice and we feel marvelous...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome To Night Vale - Now Leave IMMEDIATELY!

We take a rare stab into meat which is not PB.com raised.  As unluck would have it, we were surfing iTunes to find some audio worthy of our ears.  Ranked rather high in a "Medicine" search was Welcome to Night Vale (WTNV).  Not certain how weird fiction ended-up in that search, but we pined, perchance it was fair Providence directing our weary heart to transcendent fiction.  We were, it turns out, merely the butt of a joke played on us by Puck and Kokopelli.  Never a WSRH has violated our heads more so than WTNV!  We listened as far as we could into Episode One and were crest-fallen by way of impression.  Let us put it this way:  You know how you simply love the mystic and mystery of Tincture or How To Disappear Completely?  That clever turn of a phrase or the wonder of an unearthly twist, you know the stuff ya just love?  Yeah...  we do too.  It is painfully apparent the author of WTNV was attempting a similarly cutting-edge, surrealistic journey for the listener.  But, like a five-year old attempting to play in the NBA, the author came up real short.  What was meant to be creepy was simply dumb and what was meant to be irony was lame.  We couldn't keep from thinking how the poor fellow (or fella) who wrote the text must have dreamed such lofty dreams.  Alas, mon cheri, it is not to be.  We advise our readers herein to save themselves the frustration of sampling this annoying effort in dark humor.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

This Paper World - Thinner than That

  Oh bother, bother, bother!  We listened with such anticipation to This Paper World (TPW) by Jeff Lane.  We, as you know, love a good story and have been so, unsupported of late.  Did we mention oh bother?  We listened to one episode of TPW before unconditionally and most deservedly lowering a WSRH.  As we append often, we are not here to dash the hopes of aspiring authors, but we will speak freely.  Oh bother.

TPW (we never did find the paper, by the by) is a very very stock tale.  I have super powers and am good and I fight - literally - the powers of evil.  I have guns - really big guns, and those evil-fellows are ever-so-evil.  They have super powers too.  So, since good super powers always defeat evil super powers (this is what, a rule or a guide-line?) I win and they lose.  Okay, if you cannot be original, maybe you will be impactful, innovative, unconventional, TPW.  Not so much.  Just off-the-shelf here.  The real turn-off was the torture-the-little-girl convention.  Yes, well, what good story does not necessitate the cruel torture of innocent young girls?  Torture little boys?  What a silly thought.  It is little girls who get inhumanely tortured, right?  What, torture yucky snakes and spiders?  Boy, are you out of touch!

  Did we mention that we guessed that Jeff Lane was a male?  So, novels where little girls are tortured written by men = way too many.  Novel where little girls are tortured written by females = none we know of.  Let us re-cap:  Men like to fantasize about torturing little girls too often, and women dream of tortured girls never.  Could there be a subliminal message males are missing in these statistics?

  The real incongruity is that the torturing of said little girls is completely extranious to the story as it needs to be told.  The evil dudes need to extract mojo from those who have it.  Okay, lame plot, but okay.  But why not A) simple murder the mojo-owner; B) Draw by magic the mojo from the victim; C) ask to borrow the mojo if they pay it back with mojo-interest in 90 days?  There are so many ways evil dudes can obtain mojo which do not involve the toture of little girls that we wonder (yet again) why this theme is so... attractive, so alluring, so_____------______------REVOLTING!

  There, we said it.  PEOPLE, stop glamorizing little-girl torture.  Do not write of it, do not speak it, do not even think it.  If you need to tell us your take on little girl torture, please...  please.... no we won't go there... please... go FRESHEN yourself.  Yes, clean your minds and hearts and souls and write a story which is not based on...  no, we won't stoop that low either.  Okay, PB.COM Review Rule One: Don't write shit.

  We're done now

  Please do not listen to this awful story.  How ever good it might have gotten (doubtful but within the realm of possibility), it is absolutely void of redeeming grace.