Jim MacLachlan

Books

This member has not published any books.

Smashwords book reviews by Jim MacLachlan

  • The Second Coming on March 19, 2010

    I've read a fair amount of fantasy, adventure & horror over the years - enough that I don't often find something really new that I like. I did this time - it was both unique & thrilling. An excellent dark fantasy or horror fantasy that sets the background in a post apocalyptic world based on our current one & the Christian myth, adds in some others, & stirs the mix into an intriguing mystery-adventure. It is not for the faint-hearted. All of the characters are flawed, most badly enough that they're not all that likable, but the reasons for this are revealed - slowly. Against my will, in many cases, I was drawn into sympathetic agreement with their plight & their actions. Revelations were logical, redemption plausible & plights were chilling. The action was well described & the scenery was awesome. Wow! What a trip! Usually, if I don't like or can't identify with one of the main characters, I put a book down. I couldn't this time. The writing was too good & the plot too intriguing. I was very surprised that a self-published novel (it is, isn't it?) read as if it were professionally edited. One of my biggest turn-offs is poor punctuation, logic flaws, rambling text & 'favorite lines'. (Pieces of text that don't quite fit, but are kept by the writer because they like them.) All of these are typical of self-published novels. I didn't find any here. The writing was tight - sometimes requiring close reading or I would miss an important point - Perfect! That's the way it should be, but often isn't, even in commercial publications. As I write this, the book is available only in electronic format for a couple of bucks on Amazon (or write the author). I hope to see it in paper format, someday because it is complex enough that I wanted to flip back & forth a few times to double check names, which I find hard to do in electronic format. If it does come out in paper, I will buy it & likely re-read it when the sequel is released & I read that (hurry up & write, David!). Definitely a keeper & a book I'd like to add to my collection.
  • 24:01 One Minute After on Sep. 25, 2012

    A bunch of short stories free from Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/122483 I wanted to review each story & they deserve it, but I didn't. They are often quirky, other times horrible &/or twisted, but all were very good. A lot of different genres were covered from Medieval fantasy to SF. I probably should have rated this as 4 stars, but it's free & very well written. That earns it an extra star & I'm not sure it doesn't deserve it anyway. "Nanny" is about nanobots with a great ending. "A Simple Trade" is a fantasy story. Excellent. "Spirits of the 'Cane" - plain horror with an interesting cast. "Edgar" A quirky game of magic. Very neat. I'll never look at cats the same way again. I could see them doing just this. "Galinda" Shades of Grendel with a Gardner twist. "A Kingdom for the Taking" A Medieval conspiracy. "A Darkness of Spirit" Magic, dragons, Medieval war, & spirit. Interesting on several levels. I'm still thinking about it, so it must be good. "Verdara Lightstar" Space opera - fun! "Science & the Greater Good" Wow! I thought I'd seen most SF twists on this theme. Didn't see this one coming, though. "The Roots of Fate" Not bad, but not my favorite story in the collection. Still, it was interesting & worth reading. "A Second Rising" Aliens have taken over our world & turned us into ignorant livestock. I highly recommend getting this & watch out for more by this author. He's good!
  • The Boy In The Box on April 24, 2013

    The story was excellent, full of twists & turns in a great noir style. The hero is more of an 'everyman'. He's not brilliant nor do we get to see how tough he is in a fight, but he's honest & dogged. There were some excellent characters, although not all were fleshed out quite enough. That made some a bit more intriguing, but left me hanging on others. Hmmm... that pretty much sums up the novel. It's well on its way to being a 5 star book, but it wasn't quite consistent enough. It didn't start out well. The first chapter was one of the weakest, but I kept reading & I'm glad I did. The story got stronger all the way and the end - well, I'm not sure if that's good or not, but I'm still thinking about it. Any book of this sort that leaves me pondering has a lot going for it. Editors are expensive, but necessary. There were quite a few words that even a decent ARC reader would have picked up - 'to' instead of 'too' & such. The whole story felt as if it could have used a bit of evening out. Still, I enjoyed it & this is an author to watch. He has an excellent imagination.
  • Authors vs. Goodreads on Jan. 22, 2015

    It’s obvious that this author didn’t have a good experience putting her books on GR & it would be easy to dismiss it as whining, but I think she has a point. Authors, especially new ones, have very little guidance & support from GR. Worse, because of the abuses of a few, many GR users are frankly hostile to new authors. She blames GR for this & suggests fixes, but it’s obvious that she is only looking at this from the perspective of her works – new, self-published ebooks. There has never been a time when so many have been so free to publish so much, yet the reading of long works is on the decline according to a book I’m reading now. Readers must choose what to devote our limited time to & we sometimes callously write off works. I try to give new authors the benefit of the doubt, but I trip over a dozen new ones in the groups or my mailbox most days. They’re like commercials; minor annoyances that I tend to flip past quickly. She divides us into camps; readers, staff & authors, but really we’re just a bunch of individuals & hybrids. GR was created for & is geared primarily toward readers, though. Some are jerks, but most are indifferent to nice, just like any large group of strangers. Some abuse the system, but most don’t. I’ve been using GR for over 7 years & generally like it a lot. Since I disagree with much of this author wrote, so I’m going to give her a reader’s perspective. "All authors should realize their relationship with Goodreads is adversarial." Really? I know quite a few authors, met them through GR & while they've all admitted there can be some jerks around (With 20+million users that's to be expected.) none have ever told me that GR itself has been mean to them. The author then goes on to say that the task of marketing is daunting & the author would rather be writing. I agree. I’ve seen how badly a single, poor review can hurt an established author with over a dozen traditionally published books & decades of experience. Another, who has since become a success, was a manic-depressive as his early reviews came out. I’ve come to the conclusion that authors should NEVER read reviews of their books. No good ever comes of it, just stokes the fire, especially when they comment. Authors should never, ever comment on their reviews. I wrote an example of why here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/348414-authors-should-never-comment-on-their-reviews They shouldn’t market their books, either. Authors are artists, personalities antithetical to the type needed for sales & marketing. That’s what publishers are for. No, they’re not doing a great job, so authors are being forced into roles they’re not suited for by the current market, not just GR. She points out - correctly - that author names get mixed up sometimes & incorrectly have each other's works assigned to them. Yes, it happens & everyone hates it. Both staff & volunteer librarians work constantly to keep them straight. People & automatic software goof. If you notice this, tell a librarian. There are a lot of us around, but some of us (me) don’t do much unless we stumble on a problem that we know we can fix AND have the time. Understanding Goodreads Corporate Structure: Yes, GR is owned by Amazon. Otis & Elizabeth sold out. (Congrats to them!!!) No, I'm not tickled about it from a personal standpoint either, but that's the capitalist system. So far as I can tell, there hasn't been any change to the way the site works for me. Goodreads Pecking Order: She's right that GR is very streamlined & tech support is minimal. They seem quite fast catching flags (spam), though. As for features, they certainly do come & go with usability. It's ticked me off more than once, too. 'Readers come first'. She's right. This is a site dedicated to discussing books by readers. I'm often not happy about the way authors are treated in groups & have left several because of it. In all fairness though, some authors are quite obnoxious. Many are pigeon-authors; they fly through, spam groups, & leave. Unfortunately, they've gotten a lot of people's backs up & ruined the site for other authors. Remember, groups are not democracies, they are tyrannies. The moderator/creator of the group pretty much has free rein. No one is forced to join any group, though. If you don't like one, leave it, find a similar one (there are thousands) or start your own. Therefore, here is the hierarchy at Goodreads: Librarian, readers, then authors, most of whom are beneath contempt. Under no circumstances ever challenge a Librarian. Never! They have absolute, dictatorial control over each of your Book Description pages and a direct line to Goodreads personnel. I'll discuss how that affects you as an author in the next section dealing with your author information. GR staff should top the list. I'm a librarian with no more of a line to GR personnel than any other user nor would I knowingly mess up an author's page or books. If one does, report it. That's just wrong. I don't doubt it's happened, but I think it is rare. There are change logs & most of us don't have the time to do the proper work much less create more with errors & complaints. She says readers are next in the hierarchy & pampered. Seriously? No, we can't write any review we want. GR tightened up on that well before this was published. Many readers screamed censorship & quit at this minor tightening of rules because they could no longer discuss just the author or use some nasty shelf names. It was much needed, IMO. Still, readers can certainly say they don't like a book. They do not have to show proof they read the book. No, it isn't perfect, but a review is simply their opinion. It’s not a writ from the gods & people do have different tastes. Giving Goodreads A Lot Of Author Information: Trolls are not unique to GR & authors are at least semi- public figures. Many want to be public to promote their books. The last paragraph of this section is a hoot. "And if you truly want to scare the bejesus out of yourself, read the Goodreads Terms Of Use. You might want to let your legal council look at it. As near as I can tell, you essentially mortgage your soul and your firstborn to Goodreads when you agree to it." Have you read the terms of use for any other site or software program? They basically say the same thing. ‘Use this with no warranties & if something bad happens – tough.’ I see it all the time on critical software that we pump tens of thousands of $$$ & hundreds of man-hours of work into. It sucks. Listing your book on GR is free. There is no mortgage involved as is implied. There likely is for advertising, but that’s never cheap. Plus you’re dealing with marketing & sales types, a sneaky bunch with expensive tastes. (I have family in both & I say that to their faces often.) You're An Author Who Never Joined Goodreads: Again, authors are at least semi-public figures & the terms of use for the sites they've listed their books on allow Amazon & GR to suck in their data. Get used to it. Sites do the same thing pulling from private individuals & sites all the time. It's not always right, but it's the digital age. If you want privacy & security, stay off the web. How you’ll sell books is beyond me, though. Goodreads Fatally Flawed Review System: She starts off with, "The Goodreads review system is the most flawed book review system on the planet. It is nothing more than a beauty pageant that invites abuse." I disagree. I've known several authors who got a good start on GR & know many others who joined to keep up with their fans. For the most part, we readers are passionate, knowledgeable, opinionated, & demanding. No, we’re, not always kind to authors, but how many consumers are kind to the manufacturer? We want more for less & we’re often pestered with poor writing & blatant, rude advertising. As for rating system & reviews being laughable or useless, some are, but most are good ones. They certainly help me & I use them all the time. I’ve never read more & better in my life & I’ve been a big reader for more than 40 years. I don’t understand her logic saying that the ratings should be abolished or not counted in the overall average. Where would the average come from? Books with very few ratings can suffer from a few bad ones, but the number of ratings is right there. If a bunch of brownheads are just handing out 1 star, it’s an obvious hatchet job. It doesn't really matter to me, anyway. Neither overall star rating nor a few poor reviews are going to make up my mind. I have GR friends who have similar reading tastes to help me make my reading decisions. Their reviews show first & I read them. If I'm still on the fence, I look at the Community Reviews. I read a few of each star rating. I can quickly spot & dismiss any hatchet jobs, but people tend to rail about what bugs them, so I often find the negatives more helpful than the positives. For instance, I detest stream-of-consciousness writing, artsy punctuation, & poor editing. If several mention those points, I won't bother with the book, no matter how highly rated or popular it is. Others hate first person writing. I love it, so even if a reviewer rates a book lower for that, it helps it in my estimation. There are millions of books already published & another million being published every year now. I read a lot, well over 100 each year & have for the past 45. Even if I read 200/year until I’m 100, I'll still have only read a tiny percentage of those published this year alone. Why should I bother with anything I won't really like? My TBR stack is huge & I'm often given free books for review. I read (at least start) dozens of these each year. Only a few ever get a public review since I won't give a new author a public review unless it's 4 stars or better. It’s their call on a 3 star & they get to read the review first. The 'like' button is a reviewer rating system. There is no need for a 'dislike' button IMO. I use the 'like' button as an indication that the review has been read & acknowledged as a helpful review of the book. Several of my friends are top or best reviewers & they do a damn fine job. These lists are a good place to start if you’re looking for good reviews that agree with your tastes. I gave just a star rating to those books I read before I joined GR. It helped me find people with similar reading tastes. I have gone back & reviewed some & I’ve always reviewed them since mid 2008 or so, but what can I say about Destroyer #88 that I read over a decade (2?) ago? Hell, I didn't say much about Quarry #12 that I just finished yesterday. It was fun & had more sex, but otherwise another typical of the series. It got 3 stars instead of the 4 stars most of the earlier ones got. That says it all, doesn't it? My ‘achievements’ on GR are simply a matter of time & constant use performed for my personal satisfaction. I am not & never have considered myself a “damned important person on Goodreads”. No one pays me anything for my opinions on books & I’m sure most don’t care. I review for myself. I love being able to refresh my memory on books when they come up for discussion or to turn someone on to a good one. I export my books occasionally & run a macro so that I can see what & how I’m reading. This year, I summed it up pretty well in this book review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1156978073 No, some readers won't read indie authors. They feel they're not worth their time due to the poor quality of writing & editing in so many of them. I read quite a few & have found some great ones, but I also lament the poor editing at times. It can be very tough for a new author to find & afford a good editing team. Many skip the step & they shouldn't. Overall, reviews aren't perfect, but if you're using them to find a book, it's on you to do some due diligence as to the quality of the advice you're getting, especially since it is free. Anyone too lazy or stupid to do that probably won't be a reader the author wants giving an opinion on their baby, anyway. Anatomy Of A Troll Attack: Yes, assholes can game the system. Report abuse if you notice it. I do. It's usually quickly taken care of. GR has no tolerance for sock puppets, but if a group gangs up on an author GR staff probably don't have a lot of recourse under the rules they have to play by, either. If things are loose enough for folks to be comfortable, someone will figure out how to make others miserable. You can’t legislate assholes out of existence. (Would any of us survive such a purge?) Ignore them & they usually get bored & go away. Suggestions To Fix The Flawed Review System: I already disagreed with the idea of doing away with the star system above, but the next idea of not being allowed to review a book that I didn't finish is plain silly. If I start a book & don't like it enough to finish it, I should be allowed to say why. It happens. Sometimes it's my mood & I say so. Other times I just don’t like the book. This opinion is not limited to indy books, but includes popular ones, classics, & occasionally ones by favorite authors. I feel I’ve made enough of an effort to have an informed opinion. I have over 2400 books on my shelves & only 70 on my ‘could-not-finish’ shelf. I also have a 'do-not-read' shelf. Most are nonfiction books where the research was bogus or bad, but one is a kiddie porn book by[author:Felix Salten|262262], the author of [book:Bambi|739840]. Another book promotes child abuse by religious fanatics from what I’ve read (articles linked in my review). I want to steer myself & other folks away from them. I generally don’t give books on this shelf a star rating since I haven’t even attempted to read them. I don’t think they show in community reviews, but are visible to my friends. Using sales figures for deciding if a book was read or not is silly. There are millions of books & many resold or given privately, while others are pirated. (IMO, little-known authors should love piracy. It spreads their work around.) How big a staff do you think it would take to just gather the new book sales? Sheesh! This author already complained that author names aren't always right & tech support takes too long. Who's paying for all this extra staff? Remove comments?!!! NEVER!!! I've had some of my best conversations about books in the comments of book reviews. Many contain priceless info, too. That's tossing out the baby with the bath water - silly. IMO, this is one of the greatest things about GR, discussing books with others of differing opinions outside of groups & with a different set of people – friends of friends & followers. Goodreads Documentation: While thin, I don’t think the documentation is impenetrable, but then I’m a computer guy. I read poor documentation constantly & broken links are common. Other Broken Services On The Website: I agree that some things are broken on the site more often than I’d like. Similar to many other service & software companies, GR seems to like adding bells & whistles than fixing existing issues. It’s frustrating for us readers, too. I read a short story by an indie author through the “read book” button back in Oct 2014 & liked it so much that I used the “Get a copy:” button to buy one of her books from Amazon. Amazon has its own button & is at the top of the ‘Online Stores’ by default, but these buttons are configurable within each user’s profile for their preferred vendors. I generally use the ‘Book links’ button to search ‘PaperBackSwap’ or ‘BookMooch’ first since I have a lot of credits on them. The book I’m looking for generally comes up without a problem, but I’ve had to copy in the title &/or author before, too. Since GR already got me to the right place in another tab, it doesn’t bother me much, though. Author's Notes: Well, it’s clear enough she had a bad time of it on GR. I’m sorry for that because I like the place. I’m sure it is fraught with frustration for some, but I think her experience was the exception, not the rule. I think all new authors should pay attention to this. I doubt GR is the only place full of such frustrations & pitfalls.