Michael's Books

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thoughts on Reviewing

I believe in supporting the writing community, so from time to time I agree to do honest reviews. 

I believe there are a number of reasons why reviewers need to be straight forward in their opinions.  Here is a partial list:
  1. A reviewer needs to be honest so readers can find and depend on a reviewer who enjoys similar writing and story telling. 
  2. There is no such thing as bad publicity; exposure is exposure.   I think most readers are smart enough to know not every book is for every reader.
  3. For me reviews are an indicator of preferences not a judgment of the writer.
  4. If a work is of sub-standard quality (poor writing, grammar, editing etc.) then the writer needs to know so his / her work can be improved.
  5. The star scale system is about how much the reviewer liked or disliked a particular book.  For example some of my readers love one series and are lukewarm about another.  If you find a reviewer with similar likes you can save yourself a lot of aggravation.
  6. Most reviewers will read a sample before doing a review.  Thus it would be unusual for a disliked rating of 1 or 2 stars to appear simply because of the reviewers taste.   I think that is why you see a lot of 3 (It's OK.), 4 (I like it.), and 5 star (I love it.) reviews from bloggers.
I  always try to remember, and suggest others do, that not every book will strike the same cord with every reader.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review of "Titus" by Keith Yocum


This is a book that may appeal to those who are interested in the civil war period.  The book’s historical context seems realistic and the premise is interesting.  The book from a technical standpoint is well written.  However from my perspective the book has some significant faults in its "story telling".

I found the pace too slow for my taste.   I also found it hard to get invested in the characters  and as a result I felt like an observer of the story rather than being able to “get lost” in it.  The events the characters found themselves in, the dialogue, and the descriptions failed to evoke empathy for any of the characters.   In fact, it was unclear to me for some time who the main character of the story was. 

The final flaw was the ending of the book which was ruined for me by events mentioned in the Epilogue as they related to the serial killer.  It seems to me the twist occurring in the Epilogue should have evolved earlier in the book, been foreshadowed there, or left out entirely.  As presented, it seemed a last minute add-on.

I’d give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Note:  I was given a courtesy copy of the book so I could give an honest review.  

To preview this book on Amazon click here.

Author’s Description:

Poor Lt. Rhys.

He is a lowly acting aide de camp. Family connections got him safely parked away in Battalion headquarters away from the riff-raff of common soldiers.

And he would remain there, polishing his boots forever if it isn’t for a strange death in the regiment. The death of a single Union soldier amidst 100,000 comrades typically is not cause for concern. Senior commanders simply want confirmation that local sympathizers are the cause. Hang a couple of Virginia farmers and the killings will stop. Besides, it helps morale.

It’s a simple task for an earnest Lt. Rhys. But another soldier is killed. And another. And damn, yet another.

Alarmed, the commander orders young Rhys to collaborate with the only other officer they can muster – a brilliant, eccentric, opium-addicted field surgeon to solve the killings.  The two unlikely investigators stumble through their task while the bizarre murders pile up. Oh, and the young lieutenant discovers that he is now being stalked by the killer.

And then there is the war. It rolls across the countryside like a furious summer storm and the lieutenant, the doctor, the killer and thousands of other soldiers are put through the meat grinder called Gettysburg. Afterwards decimated units reassemble and the dead buried while survivors plod gamely on to the next battle.

But for one soldier there is a strange twist. He inadvertently discovers the identity of the killer that preyed on his unit and killed his friend. Against common sense and the military justice system, he is determined to set things right. If the fog of war is not confusing enough, there is the murky realm of vengeance that he must navigate through. Killing an enemy soldier is one thing; killing one of your own, well, that’s just killing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Preview - The Caring Sheriff

Thumbnail TCS on black Kindle

Preview - The Caring Sheriff

Get a free preview of the yet to be released "The Caring Sheriff" which is Book 7 in the Millie Thriller Mystery series.  Please click HERE.

About the book:

Millie’s Life Lesson #7 - If you care enough you may get the very best.

Sheriff Millie’s county is facing an invasion of binge drinking riotous college students.  As bad as this is, what comes next is much worse. The naked body of a young woman is found beside a rural road.  Millie’s team soon finds the crime is one of a string of serial murders reaching outside her jurisdiction.  

Millie’s team is the first to connect the murders and the investigation points to a widespread evil.  It’s a case that puts her and her deputies’ lives in peril.  To add to Millie’s burden, this  case comes at a time when events in her personal life make this case “hit home”.  She comes to understand this is a case only her team will solve because she is the one who cares the most.  Innocent lives are at stake and time is not their friend.

Review - The Birr Elixir - Jo Sparks

Review - The Birr Elixir - Jo Sparks

This is a fun read for those who like fantasy.  Jo Sparks is definitely a talented writer and The Birr Elixir is an entertaining story.  The character development is solid, the story line is interesting, the book is well paced and the dialogue is good but this book does have a “fatal flaw” so read on. 

Marra, the heroine, is an apprentice potion maker.  Her mistress has died before Marra can complete her training.  As a result of her mistress’s death, she is left in the care of Snark, her mistress’s evil brother.  Marra senses this will not end well.

An unusual customer comes to the potion shop and Marra makes a potion for an athletic team.  They believe the potion is responsible for their winning so the team’s leader offers Marra a way out of her predicament; she will travel with the team as their potion maker.  Marra’s  leaving is complicated when she discovers an unconscious man in the back of the shop.  The honorable men of the team reluctantly take the unconscious man with them. The adventure begins. 

Be warned this is a serial (a story in parts) rather than a series (a number of self-contained and complete books written one after another with the same characters).  This was the “fatal flaw” and disappointment with the book; a lack of having a truly complete self-contained story.  There are too many “loose ends”.  The matter of why the unconscious man ended up in the shop and why others want him captured alive is never resolved. It is obvious a nefarious plot is afoot but it is never revealed.  It seems that is for another book. The reader is “left hanging” and that’s not good. 

The story telling is definitely of five star quality but I cannot give the book five stars because in my opinion “The Birr Elixir” is not a complete story.  It seems meant to entice readers to buy a follow up book to find out what happens.

My rating is three out of five stars. 
Note:  I was provided a review copy for an honest review by the author.
Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Birr-Elixir-Legend-Gamesmen-ebook/dp/B00D4R7PZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379155065&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Birr+Elixir

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review - Deer Run Trail by David R. Lewis

Review – Deer Run Trail – David R. Lewis

Deer Run Trail eBook COVER thumbnail

I was recently provided a complimentary copy of Deer Run Trail – David R Lewis for an honest review.   I will be the first to admit I have only read a few books of the Western genre.  If they were all as good as this one, I would read a lot of them.  I think novelists should be good story tellers and David is!

For me reading Deer Run Trail was like being masterfully drawn through a window in time and I went willingly.  The author’s creative use of a point of view was excellent and led me to readily accept the book’s virtual reality.  It was easy to become drawn into the interesting story line.  The nice balance between story line and characters made this an easy read.  This is a book I did not want to put down and I finished it in two sittings on the same day.

The book’s pacing was just right so the story line did not lag and yet the characters were  believable and interesting.  The dialogue added to the period feel of the book and was very well done.  The writing was of very good quality.

In summary I give this book 5 Stars and recommend it not only to fans of the Western genre but to others who are adventurous.

You can buy Deer Run Trail on Amazon.

Author David R. Lewis

Saturday, May 4, 2013

eBook Giveaways

Copyright Michael O’Gara 2013  All Rights Reserved

OK, “going in” I know some readers are not going to like what I have to say here about  eBook giveaways.  Let the cards fall where they may.  This post is really about why it is not in an author’s best interests to give away their work to the public and how the practice of eBook giveaways distorts the market. 

First let’s look at it from an author’s point of view. It seems a lot of indie authors are  using eBook giveaways of their work in the hope of building an audience.  I think this is a big mistake.  Some point to the fact that traditional publishers have used giveaways.  My response is yes, but they did it in a targeted way as part of a marketing plan.  They did not distribute freebies to the public.  There was a method to their use of promotional copies.

Indie authors should be smart about eBook giveaways; using them only as promotional tools that are part of a marketing plan.  This means only sending free copies to reviewers / bloggers etc.  Use giveaways  to expand visibility.  For example a contest for a print copy on Goodreads exposes your book to a lot of readers.  In reality though it is a form of promotion that has a real cost of advertising.  The author or publisher pays for the printing of the book and the shipping.  That is using giveaways as marketing tools.
According to blogger feedback I’ve received, such contests for eBooks gain little interest.  I think it’s because there are so many eBook giveaways available.  This indicates the value of eBooks is perceived as lower.

I think authors that  give their  eBooks to anyone who wants them just devalue their brand. They are saying the only way they can get readers is to give them the work. Is that the message an author wants  to send? Of course it may be that for some authors the only way they can get any readers is to give their books away. That goes to quality of a work.  If a work is of poor quality, people are not going to put out their hard-earned money for it. 

Now let’s look at how eBook giveaways distort the market.  In the past the marketplace sorted out issues of quality based on how people voted with their dollars to read a book; it was a way of determining marketability.  Sure there were “gate keepers” such as agents, editors etc. that often passed on publishing truly readable and marketable work; no system is perfect.  The fact is though that the market was not flooded with freebies and readers only took books off the shelves they thought they would actually read.

Now people take a lot of eBooks “off the shelf” just because they’re free.  I think that eBook authors who give their work away hurt the entire market place. Too many readers may just collect lots of freebies which they may never read.  After all they didn’t cost anything. This just serves to give the author and the market a false impression of the interest in the book and distorts what is happening in the eBook market. 

I propose something very radical.  Those who are really interested in a work will pay to read it. Perhaps those authors who don’t have what it takes will eventually fall out of the market or perhaps the market will find a better way to discern what is good work.  Who knows?  In spite of the fact that a lot of people think they are good writers “it ain’t necessarily so.”  Giving eBooks away won’t change that.
In summary, I think authors should only use freebies for marketing purposes to gain visibility.  That means giving free books to those with market influence like reviewers, bloggers, advertisers and group leaders. Author’s should only be giving their book to those who influence many others.  It’s about business savvy and being smart about marketing a work.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Michael O’Gara Interviews Indie Author Jessica Flaska

Jessica Flasko cropped photo      
       If this was a newspaper article the headline would be Michael O’Gara Interviews Indie Author Jessica Flaska – so now you know what this piece is about.  Jessica is an indie author who published her first book titled “Two Storms” in 2008.  Since then she has published 10 more books in various genres. 
          You can find out about Jessica’s books at:
 Here is the interview with Jessica:

Jessica, please tell us how long have you’ve been writing and how you started.
Technically I started in Junior high with a writing assignment in my English class. The teacher had only wanted us to 5 or so pages and just a short story. I ended up writing quite a bit more and didn’t finish it in time the assignment was due. I handed it in before class because I was embarrassed with how long it was. My parents encouraged me to self-publish at that time, but of course when you’re in junior high you don’t want to listen to your parents on some things. I put it off and regretted it until 2008 when I self-published my first book Two Storms. I do wonder where I would be today if I took my parents up in Junior high.
What do you like best about being a writer?
I love letting my imagination go. I’ve always had an overactive one and thought of stories as they pop in my head or run through ideas. I love that I get to entertain the person reading my books and hope they enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What’s your least favorite thing about being an author?
With family, working full-time and going to school for English lit, I don’t have as much time to write as I would like to. Also self-editing. As I’m writing the book I read over my manuscript numerous times that it gets to a point that as I read it I read what I meant to write and that is why I take up my friends offers when they ask to edit it.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job outside of writing? 
I work full-time so write part-time.
What is your routine for writing; do you work better in the morning, afternoon, or  at night?
Any time of day. If the manuscript is less than 60 pages (not yet in book format) there is no problem doing it at any time, however the longer the manuscript the longer it takes me to read through it and start writing from there especially if I have not been able to write in a month or so, I need to read it again.
Where do you prefer to do your writing?
Where it’s quiet or I can have music on. Sometimes listening to music helps the writing.
Where’s home for you? 
With my family, but I will admit with living out west for most of my life.  I love the mountains and would want to live either east or west coast as long as there are mountains or an ocean…lakes and rivers don’t count though they’re beautiful. I love the never-ending of oceans, other than that, with my family doing what we enjoy.
Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
Weird thing can’t really say, nice thing: my parents are close and we are five hours from California so can take long weekend family vacations, and the fact would be the summers are too hot to enjoy being outdoors.
Do you prepare an outline before starting a book or do you just start writing?
No. I attempted that once and I will admit it helped keep the story in line with what I originally planned, but it was harder to keep with those ideas. I like writing more freestyle and just let the ideas come.
Did you participate in the design of your cover art and if so to what extent? Tell us about the artist.
I publish through Createspace and they have a cover design center we can use. On all but one cover I downloaded the image from veer and used Photoshop to do the title and name in certain fonts.
How do you go about developing your characters?
Pretty much what pops in my head and I think about what I want them to be like. I don’t want them to be perfect, I want them to be like anyone else with things that may happen. On the current manuscript I’m working on, Captured, someone I have on Facebook posted a picture of themselves awhile ago and that picture brought the story to life and with the main character I wanted to base it off of that person and what I picked  up from the picture and what I’ve seen of that person. I had a hard time starting that book out, but it’s amazing what some things can do to inspire and bring something to life.
Do you have a favorite of your characters?
The characters from my first book because it was my first and I like the characters from The Medallion and Captured-not yet published. Their strong characters with what they believe in and I don’t have a favorite one out of them because they are different enough from each other.
When you start a new book, do you know who all the characters will be before starting to write?  Please explain your process.
Not always. I want to get the main characters narrowed down but they grow as I’m getting further into the book. With characters that are born during the writing, I think about what I want from them and how I want them to be. To be on the side of the villain or the hero sort a speak. The hardest thing I have when it comes to the characters is their names. In some books I think I repeated some of the names by accident and need to start writing down what I use, but I go online and look up names. I like to use Irish and Scottish names mostly or something just different that you don’t hear every day.

Find out more about Jessica at:
 Jessica’s books can be found at :