Category Archives: Book Reviews

Having Fun With a Negative Review

Sometimes you just gotta have some fun with negative reviews (even if they are from 2011).

Review for Darlington Woods:

Cartoonish characters set in improbable situations. I could not identify or symphathize with the heroes nor fear the unrealistic villains. I struggled to complete this poorly written book. I rate it as the worst Christian novel I ever read, and I have read hundreds of them.
My reply comment:
Thank you for your honest review. I always wanted to be number one at something. Thanks for giving my book the distinction of the worst Christian novel you ever read . . . wow.
I hope the reviewer receives my reply in the spirit it was written . . . all in good cartoonish fun. No hard feelings 🙂

My Take On . . . Reader Reviews (with some feistiness)

Modern Art

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to make this short and to the point. Reader reviews are what they are. Writing is art and reading is subjective. That whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing. That’s what is wonderful about it. There’s something for everyone.

Yes, there are certain rules writers should follow that make for “good” writing but even those rules can be broken and broken with success.

But as for the reviews themselves, I put reviews into four categories: Positive about the story; Positive about the craft; Negative about the craft; Negative about nonsense.

I’m not going to dwell on the positive reviews because everyone enjoys positive reviews. For some readers the story captures their imagination or heart and they just love it. For others, the skill of the author impresses them. Positive reviews are awesome. Simple.

Negative reviews are another kind of bird. There are the negative reviews that actually mean something. They touch on the craft of storytelling or the skill of  word weaving. Pacing, character development, plotting, etc. This is called constructive criticism. I take these reviews to heart and seek to learn something from them.

Then there are the moronic reviews. Like this one for my family drama, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (written under a pen name, Michael King): The reviewer gave it 2 stars because “I ordered this book because my brother was recently diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I thought this would be a resource book.” Really? It clearly says “A Novel” right on the cover. My heart goes out to the brother and . . . he could still use it as a resource book.

And then there are comments like this attached to 1-star reviews: “Gives you the impression it’s going to be a horror novel, and ends up pounding religion into the reader.” And this: “This book is all about finding God, how your problems will all be solved and all will be right with the world. What a crock. If I want to find religion, I can do it without being tricked into reading a religious book. Shame.” Uh, did they read the book? Yes, it’s about finding God but all is definitely not right with the world. And these are the folks who accuse Christians of being closed-minded. Shame.

These moronic reviews really don’t bother me. They’re part of being a writer and you take ’em as part of the journey.

But sometimes negative reviews hurt. This one for Frantic still puts an ache in my heart. It’s honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I wrote a post on it before that discusses why it hurt so badly.

Other times I’m just baffled by positive vs. negative reviews. The two following reviews exemplify perfectly how subjective reading is. Both are for my short story The Last Hunt.

The positive one: From the first line of the story, Dellosso’s craftsmanship shows through. The story begins with boyhood memories of hunting trips with his dad, his uncle, and his grandfather. The tale includes anecdotes of how the narrator grew up on these hunting trips and approached manhood. Then the story delves into the fateful night and the hunting trip that was the final one. The story is narrated at just the right pace. It is a masterpiece.

And the negative one: I really enjoy Mr. Dellosso’s books, so I thought I would try this short story. It was very disappointing and definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it. The story was rushed and the conclusion just left me confused. Questions were not answered and storylines weren’t finished. I think this would make a good full-length book so that more things could be fleshed out. As a short story, however, it fell way short of the mark.

Did they read the same story? Obviously they did. But you see how the same story can affect people in two totally different ways. For a writer, this is frustrating.

Now, the negative one here would fall into the “Negative about the craft” category and is worth learning from. Except one thing that, I’m sorry, just irks me: “definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it.” I wish this reviewer would have used his real name because I’d gladly track him down and refund his dollar. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Okay, that was a little more than short and sweet. Sorry.

FearlessCoverHey, if you haven’t read my newest thriller, Fearless, yet I’d suggest getting a copy and leaving a review when you’re done. And I’ll thank you ahead of time for any positive or thoughtful negative reviews. But please, if your review is going to be moronic, save your time and skip it. Or don’t use your real name.


FearlessCoverSound too good to be true? It’s not.

Yes, you can get my newest thriller FEARLESS for free.

My publisher, Charisma House, recently created a website called Booketeria where you can request books for free and all you have to do in return is promise to write an honest review.

FREE book (and a new release at that). A $14.99 value. For a simple but honest review.

Not a bad deal.

Just go on over to, sign up, and get your copy of FEARLESS for FREE.

And if you don’t mind, please share this great deal with all your social media friends. FREE is good!

Oh, one more thing . . . you can still get my novel FRANTIC for only $1.99 on Amazon. Hurry, though, this price won’t last too much longer.

Asking for a $20 Tip

A Waitress taking a breakfast order at Kahala ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a big tipper.

If a server does a good job, I reward him/her with a big tip. Hey, I’ve never been a waiter but I do consider myself in the service industry . . . twice. My full-time job is in home care physical therapy. We serve patients. Customer care, the patient experience, is everything and very important to me. I’m also an author and serve readers with hopefully good stories and a positive experience. So I can empathize with servers. They have a tough job trying to  please their customers.

For them to earn a big tip doesn’t mean they have to be infallible. Their service does not have to be perfect. I’m not overly demanding and my expectations are not overly high. I just want to have a comfortable, enjoyable experience.

A little while ago I read a book about marketing and the author talked about asking your readers for a $20 tip. That’s right, twenty bucks. Now before you assume where this is going and stop reading, let me explain.

Imagine yourself as a waiter or waitress. You do your best to serve each table, you stay attentive, fill their drinks, answer their questions, take their food back when it’s not hot enough or tastes funny. You bust your butt to make sure they’re having a nice time. Then they get up to leave and say, “Hey, thanks for the great time. You did an excellent job.” But there’s no tip.

Or imagine the same scenario, same thank you, but when you get back to the table there’s a $20 bill laying there.

The author of this book went on to say that the $20 tip you can give any author is a positive review on Amazon (and other sites). And surprisingly, those reviews mean more than you think they do, not only to the author but toward future awareness and sales.

So here’s my request, not just for me but for every author. If you read a book and enjoy it, if it moves you, excites you, entertains you, please do that author a favor and leave her a positive review on Amazon. Trust me, she’ll appreciate the $20 tip and it only costs you a few short minutes of your time.

An Author I Admire; a Book I Recommend . . . and a Giveaway!

I don’t recommend very many books on this blog, not because I don’t read many books worth recommending, but just because that isn’t what this blog is about. But sometimes I feel compelled to, for a variety of reasons.

And as an author, strangely, there are few authors I truly admire. Oh, there are writers out there way more talented than me, that’s not what I’m getting at. I mean authors who because of what they write, how they write it, and who they are, have captured my admiration. Athol Dickson is one of those authors.

A couple weeks ago I posted about Athol Dickson’s new book, January Justice. I’ve read the book and like with all of Athol’s books, highly recommend it. I first discovered Athol at the prompting of my wife after she read They Shall See God. I then read River Rising and it literally made me see Jesus in a whole new way (there’s one line in the book that will blow you away). Athol’s writing is fluid and almost magical. He has a distinct voice that, as a fellow author, I appreciate.

You can find January Justice here. Please check it out.

And now for even better stuff . . . we’re giving away THREE KINDLE COPIES OF JANUARY JUSTICE. To enter just leave a comment to this post (entries will be taken until midnight Thursday). If you don’t have a Kindle, shame on you, but don’t worry, you can still win. Amazon has Kindle apps for just about every kind of reading device including smart phones and your PC or Mac.

And I hope the interview below allows you to get to know Athol a little better.


So tell me about your new murder mystery, January Justice.

The back cover pretty well tells the story: Reeling from his wife’s unsolved murder, Malcolm Cutter is just going through the motions as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Hollywood’s rich and famous. Then a pair of Guatemalan tough guys offer him a job. It’s an open question whether they’re patriotic revolutionaries or vicious terrorists. Either way, Cutter doesn’t much care until he gets a bomb through his window, a gangland beating on the streets of L.A., and three bullets in the chest. Now there’s another murder on Cutter’s Mind. His own.

January Justice is the first in a new series will follows Malcolm Cutter as he works as a chauffeur/crime sleuth and looks for his wife’s murderer on the side.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t really make a decision to become a writer, so much as it just happened. I was working as a partner in an architectural firm, and spending most of my days dealing with handling business issues instead of having fun designing buildings, which was not what I had in mind when I went into architecture. I wanted some kind of creative release, and I’ve always loved to read murder mysteries, so I decided to try my hand at writing one. A couple of years later, I met a newspaper editor who had good connections in the publishing world. He volunteered to read my novel, and to my surprise, he thought it was pretty good. He gave me my first professional editorial advice, and after I made the changes he suggested, he sent the manuscript to some friends of his. The next thing I knew, I had an offer from a publisher.

It was all sort of accidental, so I never really thought of writing as anything more than a hobby. But I enjoyed it, and I had a publisher, so I kept writing. Then one of my novels won an award and I flew to Denver to receive it. When they stood me up on stage and praised the book and gave me a round of applause, I remember thinking that somehow, I had become a writer. That was the first time it sank in.

Do you have specific habits when you write?

I write toward a specific goal every day. Sometimes it’s a certain number of words, and sometimes it’s the completion of a scene, but one way or the other I give myself that goal and I keep writing until I get there.

Are you an early bird or night owl?

I’m a morning person, usually up by five or five thirty, and working no later than seven.

6 Suggestions for Better Book Reviews

Grains of salt

Grains of salt (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

Most authors learn pretty quickly to take reviews of their books with a grain of salt. And most authors can tell which reviews are serious and genuine and which ones are fluff (and I would imagine most readers can too). Personally, I enjoy reading reviews of my books, both the positive and negative, but there are some (both positive and negative) that just cause me to roll my eyes.

Reviews are powerful things, though, that carry the weight to sway a potential reader to either go ahead and make the purchase or not to and to give the author useful information that she can use to improve her writing. Therefore, when writing a review, care should be taken to do it properly and in the right spirit.

Here are 6 suggestions, in my estimation as an author, for writing fair, accurate reviews that will help a reader decide whether the book is right for him or her and will help the author become a better writer.

  • First and foremost, actually read the book you’re reviewing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a review of one of my books and scratched my head, wondering if the reviewer even read it. It was so full of erroneous information.
  • Be honest but be fair. As I’ve stated at other times, flattery does no one any good, but harsh criticism doesn’t either. If you enjoyed the book, say so, if you hated it, say so, but be tactful about it. And be polite. My wife and I are currently watching back episodes of BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford about two towns in late 19th-century England. I’m always amazed at how politely the folks then could disagree and even insult each other. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost that art. A book review is a good place to find it again. Know that others will be reading your review and that it is a reflection of you.
  • Save the vitriol. There is no place for hatred in a book review if it is to be taken seriously. If, of course, you have no intention of being taken seriously, well, that’s another matter. A review is not the place to level insults, to mock, to embarrass, or to tear down. If you truly feel the need to confront an author, take the time to track down a personal email and do it in private. Be careful not to the let the anonymity of the internet empower you into doing something brash and harmful.
  • Remember that writing is an art and the interpretation of it is therefore subjective. What you hate, another may love. Your review is your opinion. Keep that in mind and remember your place in all of this.
  • A review is not the place to show off your intricate knowledge of English grammar. Authors make mistakes, editors sometimes miss those mistakes. It happens. Avoid nitpicking in your review. I’m sorry, but I doubt many readers really care if the author has a tendency to leave participles dangling. Realize that there is a difference between a critique and a review. If you’re a professional and you’ve been asked to provide a professional critique, that’s another story and a different topic entirely.
  • Lastly, keep the review to the story itself. There’s no need to mention that the shipping and handling was too expensive or the shipping delayed or that the book came damaged in the mail. None of that is the author’s fault. And unless the editing is especially atrocious or the cover especially amateur there is no need to mention those things either. For the most part, both are out of the author’s control.

The bottom line here is to be honest, be fair, be civil, and give other readers and the author something useful to read.

Do you have an other suggestions for what makes a good book review? Things you like to see in a review? Things you think have no place in a review?

(If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to join me on my other blog as well:

Wanted: Temporary Amnesia!

Suspense (1913 film) suspense

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love talking to readers about the books I write. Not because I’m looking for praise or accolades, goodness no, but because I’m intrigued by how they interpret the story, how they receive it and respond to it. I want to know if certain scenes were as suspenseful as I intended them to be, if characters were liked or hated, if feelings were evoked.

I’m intrigued because for the reader it’s all brand new, it’s like meeting someone for the first time and listening to all thier great stories and funny jokes and interesting experiences. For me, as the writer, there’s nothing new about my story. Before it reaches the reader I’ve read over it at least a dozen times, have seen the changes its gone through, the improvements made upon it. I’ve seen it before it’s been polished, before it’s had the blemishes covered and rough edges smoothed. There’s nothing new about it, nothing suspenseful, nothing noteworthy or moving. Yes, in a way, I feel cheated.

And for this reason I’m always amazed when people have positive things to say. I release each book with a certain amount of trepidation, thinking it will not be received well, readers will hate it, no one will understand it, the characters will fall flat, reviewers will scoff. I’m a bundle of frayed and raw nerves.

Just once, I’d like to read one of my books while suffering temporary amnesia so I can experience the story for the very first time, so I can be surprised by the twists and turns, so I can fall in love with or come to despise the characters. So I can judge it, based not on what I’ve seen of it, the entire six-month process, but based on its merits as a story.

But since that can’t and won’t happen I must rely on you, the reader. And this is why it’s important to writers that you are honest in your assessment. Flattery has never helped anyone. Unwarranted criticism hasn’t either. It’s important for you to review the books you read. It doesn’t have to be an official review (though they do help), a simple email to the writer will suffice. Let us know how the story moved you. What you liked and didn’t like. What emotions you felt and where. Who your favorite character was and why. You can play a role in improving a writer’s craft by offering your honest opinion.

Will you help me? I’ll post again soon about things to keep in mind when offering a review.

A Bad Review–This One Hurts

I usually don’t draw attention to negative reviews unless they are unwarranted and silly like the “Christian propaganda” reviews or the “I got duped into buying a Christian book” reviews.

This is for a couple reasons. One, honestly, it’s just a bad idea. Why would I shine the spotlight on someone’s disappointment with my work? And two, I don’t like to dwell on bad reviews. Sure they sting temporarily, but I’ve grown pretty thick skin and can easily brush the negative away.

But sometimes it just hurts.

I share this review with you for no other reason than to give you a glimpse into the heart of a writer. Most negative reviews I read, I frown, and I move on. Oh well. Not life-altering stuff. But every now and then I’ll get one that stabs at my heart and sticks with me. I can’t seem to shake it.

This was one of them. It showed up on Amazon and it has been haunting me since I read it.

I don’t know what kind of copyright laws Amazon has so you can go to the site and read the review here. (It’ll open in a new window).

It pains me that I was the one chance this guy gave Christian fiction and he was so disheartened and disappointed he vowed to read no more. Ugh.

I applaud this reader for giving it a try. I’m sorry he spent his hard-earned money and in the end was not satisfied with the product. Please, don’t post any negative comments on his review. He was honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I’m just sorry the story never really reached him.

One of the worst things about these kind of reviews is that the author never gets a chance to talk to the reader. I wish I could sit down with this gentleman and discuss the issues he had with the story. I’d like to ask him not to let me be the sole representative for Christian fiction. Try it again; there’s some really good stuff out there that doesn’t have supernatural elements, stuff I know he would enjoy.


Spinning top, bought in Prague

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life happens at the speed of now. Know the feeling?

So much has been going on lately at times it feels like my head is spinning and my eyes can’t focus on any one thing. I’m in the midst of a writing perfect storm.

Editing A Thousand Sleepless Nights. Writing The Prodigy. Promoting Frantic and Rearview (my 7 Hours novella that releases in May).

Here are some important updates:

Editing for A Thousand Sleepless Nights is almost finished. It releases in October. To see the cover and keep up with my alter ego, Michael King, visit his blog where he posts regularly.

My next suspense novel, The Prodigy, is underway. I have a June 1 deadline and A LOT to write. Am I panicked? Not yet, but in a couple weeks I will be.

**IMPORTANT**  I know I announced a little while ago that my next novel would be a sequel to Frantic. But as things usually go in the publishing world, plans changed. The sequel will have to put on the back burner. The Prodigy is another stand alone but I promise you’ll love this story. It’s full of intrigue and mystery, action, and of course, suspense.

Rearview releases in just a few weeks along with the other six 7 Hours novellas. Initially, they will only be available as e-books through all the major outlets. Priced at $2.99, I hope they all sell well and fast. Be on the lookout for them. When they release I think they’ll be offered at a special price.

Frantic is being enjoyed by many readers. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a review by The Suspense Zone. Order your copy today.

**MAJOR IMPORTANT** Starting in May, I will no longer be blogging on this site. The site will be devoted to information about my books, speaking, teaching, and other writing. All my interactions and articles and whatever else will take place on my Facebook author page. If you haven’t “liked” it yet, please do so and check in often. I’d love to hear from you.

That’s it for now. I’ll give one more heads-up about this site at the end of April.

FRANTIC Giveaways!

The time has come to give away some books!

FRANTIC releases in six days and I plan to give away a book a day until February 7. On the 7th I’ll give away as many as 5 books.

FRANTIC is the story of three unlikely heroes fighting to survive in a world where every card seems stacked against them. The story moves at a lightning pace and leaves you feeling, well, frantic. But there’s also a message in there, an important word for all of us about faith and trust and what’s really important. You won’t want to miss this one.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Can a deranged serial killer be stopped before it’s too late?

For gas station attendant Marny Toogood it’s just another day on the job when an urgent message from a young girl in the backseat of a car draws him into a daring rescue attempt. Now on the run with the girl and her brother, Marny begins to realize he must conquer his own past and surrender all to Christ.

As they face kidnapping, underground cults, and other evils, can Marny trust the simple faith of a child and stand his ground against a power so twisted?

So here’s how it will work. Between now and midnight February 6th, leave a comment each day somewhere on this blog to be entered to win the daily giveaways.

Then, “like” my Facebook author page to be entered to win a copy on February 7th. If you’ve already liked it you’re already entered. But here’s the clincher. Our goal is to reach 700 likes (that’s only 135 more). If we reach that goal I’ll be giving away 5 copies of FRANTIC. So please, tell your friends, share the news, pass it along. Free is good, right?

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