Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Book Reviews

Here on Type AJ Negative, I often talk about things other than my books and writing. I like to tell stories about life. I talk about things that mean something to me and that I hope can mean something to you. 

I deal in words and in the importance of using them to tell stories. Sometimes, however, other folks deal in words and say good things about my work. Though I have a page here dedicated to book reviews, what I want to do is start posting those reviews here on the main page. 

Is this a way for me to interest you in purchasing one of my books? Well, yes, it is. I have a saying: Bet on me. Bet on my writing. You won’t regret it. I hope you will consider purchasing one of my books, either from me directly (for print books and I will sign each one) or through Amazon for digital books. Also, if you’ve read one of my books, will you consider leaving a review if you haven’t already done so? Or, drop me a note here, on my page or at my email, 1horrorwithheart@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

The following are reviews that were recently left on some of my books. 

From Amazon, a review of Interrogations:

Interrogations CoverYet another emotionally charged, character driven story from the mind of A.J. Brown. This author writes characters that you feel you know and you worry about them. Hank Walker wakes up in a survivor camp that is not what it seems. The leader should not be in charge and Hank makes it his mission to let the other survivors realize this. Hank is going through changes and he knows he must leave. I won’t say more except you must read Brown’s books if you love amazing stories with down to earth characters.

From Dark Bites, a review of Closing the Wound:

Closing the Wound is a story about ghosts, both living and long since deceased. It’s a story about the type of scars which, while faded over time, remain a stark reminder of what’s been lost and what may never be fully understood. It acts as a brief history of sadness about a life cut far too short and the kind of questions which can only be answered by those no longer here.

coverClosing the Wound doesn’t come across so much as a coming of age story as it does a coming to terms story. The story clearly provides a cathartic path on which the author has set himself upon while simultaneously creating a outlet for honoring a childhood friend murdered on Halloween night several years past. This story seems to be for both the writer, and his lost friend and is sure to hit several emotional chords for readers along the way.

A.J. Brown recalls the painful memories of his past in the same vein as any classic ghost story best told around a campfire long after the kids have gone to sleep when scary monsters get to play with our conscience mind a while. Except, in this case, the monsters are as real as the story told and everything you’re about to read happened as recollected by the author in a bare-bones, journalistic style.

As much as this story of about 15,000 words was written as a method for healing, it’s hard not to relate with at least some of the author’s mournful experiences which speak volumes to anyone who’s ever lost something they cared deeply for at some point in their life. As the author warns up front, don’t expect a happy ending. Happy endings don’t often belong in the real world.

While Closing the Wound may leave readers with more questions than answers, I feel it will also imbed within its readers a sense that it’s okay to not understand everything we think we need to no matter how desperate that need may so often feel. If A.J.’s book has taught at least this reader anything, it’s to remember that while it seems ideal to find answers as a way of closure, it may be important to find a way to accept what little we’re willing and able to remember – and understand – of a painful experience from even the most haunting moments of our lives.

And with that I urge you to do yourself a favour and grab a copy of Closing the Wound for yourself and put aside a few hours of reflective reading. You’ll be glad you did because there’s a lot more where that came from.

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 4.52.16 PMFrom Amazon, a review of Zombie:

I love anthologies! Being busy, they give you a chance to actually finish a story in a short period of time. Zombie gives you 14 well written shorts with that A. J. Brown twist and emotional pull. I love that Hank and Humphrey, from Dredging Up Memories, make an appearance in Bonobo. I would have to say, French Dressing was my favorite. It’s great when a story can make you LOL. Thank you again, A. J., for another wonderful book.

From Amazon, a review of Dredging Up Memories:

A.J. Brown has done with his zombie apocalypse novel “Dredging Up Memories” what Shakespeare always strived to do with his plays and characters, to hold a mirror up to nature. Brown, in achieving this, has breathed new life into an often overdone premise. 1 DUM COVERMore often than not, the zombies in such horror novels are mindless drones that serve as nothing more than bullet cushions or slow-moving targets. Brown’s protagonist, Hank Walker, displays his human nature through trying time and time again in the novel to perceive or draw out some hint of human residue in the zombies he encounters. Who they were in life? He takes no pleasure in killing and apologizes to those he is forced to put down. He buries his dead. This, to me, is how I truly believe a good man would react to such a situation as a zombie apocalypse. He is a complex character and one worth following and sympathizing with throughout this powerful novel. Brown has written an intricately-crafted novel and his voice is authentic as it is familiar. We all know the people in Brown’s novel. And Hank Walker could be the guy on the barstool next to yours. I loved this book and didn’t want it to end. And when a book gives me this kind of charge and evokes this type of emotion, I want to read everything by that author. 12 ASOM CoverBrown is such an author. Great, great read!

From Amazon, a review of A Stitch of Madness

I’m 63 years old and I’ve been a horror fan all my life. It takes a LOT to creep me out, anymore. I can’t wait to read another book by this author. In the meantime, I’m going to read this one again.

From Amazon, a review of Beautiful Minds:

A.J. Brown truly has a beautiful mind. His way with words in these 61 stories captivates you as they remind of us what it is to be human, to have feelings and emotions. The stories pull you in as he takes true to life events that make you recall bits and pieces of your own life, with a twist. He makes you feel pain and sorrow, wonder and awe, and fear at what would happen if … At times you will laugh out loud as I did. He has a way with words that make you feel at times you are living within the story, feeling and seeing as the character(s) do. Do I have favorites in the book? Most definitely. Did I mark each on the contents page? I did, and I encourage other readers to do so. You will find, as I did, a row of stars which I will reread again, like other favorite books on my shelves. Thank you, A.J., for giving your audience another purely captivating book to treasure.

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 4.50.55 PM***

Well, that’s all for now. As always, thank you for spending your time with me. I hope we can build on this and I hope to hear from you in the future.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

Time… Please, Don’t Waste It

Recently I had to take my daughter to the doctor. The creeping crud got hold of her and it was time for her to either get the antibiotics (again) or the liquid gold, aka, the shot. While there, a parent of two children sat beside me in the lab waiting room. She made a comment that reminded me of a story I heard a couple years ago.

The comment: “I love this place. They are so fast and never keep you waiting. I wish doctors for adults were that way.”

Don’t we all?

This reminded me of the story of an attorney who went to see the doctor. He arrived on time, signed in and took a seat. And he waited. The time for his scheduled appointment came and went and kept on going. The office wasn’t particularly busy on that day, but still the attorney waited almost an hour before his name was called and he was taken back to the examination room, where he waited for another half an hour before the doctor came in to see him.

The attorney was not happy. Since he was at the doctor’s office in what was supposed to be a routine check-up, he was not at his office working for his clients, which meant he could not bill them. He lost an hour and a half worth of his time that he could have been making money.

The rest of the story is fairly simplistic. The attorney informed the doctor about his dissatisfaction, and then billed him for the hour and a half he sat in the waiting and exam rooms. The fact was clear in the attorney’s mind: his time was valuable and the doctor didn’t respect it.

Not that it matters for the story, but the doctor ended up paying the bill.

Let’s take a step back, zoom in with our motion picture hands to our faces.

What is the point to the story? Ah, that’s right, that everyone’s time is valuable to them.

Your time is important to you. How you spend your time is important to you. And for someone to waste your time—YOUR, being the operative word here—is disrespectful and rude and insensitive.

Wait. What’s that? I’m getting a little carried away? Am I? I don’t think so, and I’ll try and explain this the best I can.

Have you ever watched a movie or listened to a speaker or spent time with someone you really don’t like and came away thinking, ‘I’ll never get that time back.’ A show of hands, how many people have had that very thing happen? Wow, almost all of you.

Would you say in those instances that you could have been doing something better or more productive with your time? If you can, then that event or person to which you ‘will never get that time back’ from wasted your time. Pretty logical deduction, if you ask me.

A few years ago I went to a family reunion. No, it wasn’t my family. It was boring. The few folks I talked to were self-serving and self-centered. Yet, I spent three hours there—three hours I will never EVER get back. I wasn’t the only one who thought that, either.

My time was wasted.

Now, to get to the point.

Dear Writers (myself included),

You have an obligation to the readers. Make your work interesting. Make the readers fall in love or hate your characters. Give them something to hold onto. Don’t just write meaningless action or sex or gore just because you can, but make those things matter in the readers’ minds. Remember, just because it is in your head, it doesn’t mean the readers can see it. You have to help them visualize it. You have to help them feel it.

Remember, Dear Writers, that just because you ‘get it’ doesn’t mean the readers will. Make sure you’re not confusing. Make sure that your words make sense. Make sure your adjectives and verbs fit the situation. Make sure the dialogue is as realistic as in real life.

Enjoy the process and never get ahead of yourself. Remember, if you skim over your work when editing, the readers will skim over it when reading.

Confidence shows in the words you write, so believe in yourselves.

It is your job, not only write the stories that the readers will read, but to entertain them and to not waste their time. When that reader puts your book down or finishes your short story, then they need to feel as if it was time well spent. A reader should never come away saying, ‘that’s time I’ll never get back.’

Remember, their time is valuable and if you waste it with crappy words, then you may never get another minute of their time again.

Sincerely,

A writer and a reader all rolled up in one.

But wait. I’m not quite done.

Dear Readers,

Thank you for taking the time to pick up our books, to spend a little bit of your hard earned money for a little entertainment that may be unknown to you. For all you know, you are getting a Jack-In-the-Box with a demon clown’s head attached to the spring load. Thank you for your willingness to sit down in your favorite chair or in the coffee shop or tucked beneath the covers at home with one of our books. We, the writers, hope (and pray) that you enjoy our books and will be willing to purchase another on down the road.

If you enjoyed our books, then please, feel free to share that with your friends. A simple, ‘hey, you gotta read this’ will go a long way to helping us achieve our goals of getting our stories in front of every possible reader we can. If you enjoyed the books and have a blog or website or Amazon account (especially if you purchased it on Amazon), then would you consider leaving a review? That helps us as well. I know it will take a moment of your time, but it will be well spent time.

And, Dear Readers, if you did not enjoy our books, we are sorry. Truly, we are. If you didn’t enjoy them, then we failed you and wasted your time. For that, we apologize and hope you will give us another chance.

But also, Dear Readers, if you didn’t like our books, please be honest about it. Don’t be mean and hateful if you take the time to review the book. Be honest and insightful—that helps both the other readers and us writers. We learn from what you say.

You see, those folks who write the stories spend a lot of their time doing so. They work hard (well, most of them do) to create the stories that are put out for the masses to read, the masses that we have a hard time attracting. We worry over the characters and scenes and dialogue and plot (oh yes, there is always the plot). If it takes you a week to read a novel, you can guarantee it took a lot longer for the writer to pen it.

We understand if you don’t like a book, but be fair and honest, not vengeful.

Once again, Dear Readers, we thank you for your willingness to take a chance on those of us you may never have heard of. We hope we have not let you down.

Sincerely,

A reader and writer all rolled up in one.

Did you really think I was done already? Just another couple of minutes of your (very valuable) time and I’ll be done.

Time. It’s the one thing you can never get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. With that in mind, this writer who is a reader as well, ask that Writers, remember your readers’ time is important to them. Please, don’t waste it. And Readers, a writer’s time is important as well—respect their work and them. Honestly, if not for readers, writers wouldn’t have an audience, and if not for writers, readers would have nothing to read. We need each other—our time is valuable. To each of us, don’t disrespect each other by not respecting their time, and just how important it is.

Until we meet again, my friends…

On Book Reviews and The Coffin Hop Day 4

Book reviews. Ever heard of them? Sure you have. It’s really a dumb question, right?

[[Herbie: No question is a dumb question, A.J., or have you forgotten?]]

Okay, maybe it wasn’t a dumb question, but it feels like a dumb one. If you are a reader, I’m sure you have heard of book reviewing.

Let me ask you a question: When you read a book, do you review it?

Do you?

If we go by what some pundits say (and we’ll stick to e-book numbers for this little exercise), then only about 1-3% of the reading population actually do reviews. Let’s put it another way. If someone sells 100 books, then that means only 1 to 3 people will review it. Of course that is just a guess and I’m pretty much basing it off of numbers that I have seen from my own books. That and a bit of research over the last few months to go along with a few analytical types’ assessments.

Let’s just say 7-10% of the e-book reading population leaves a review, and I think I’m being pretty generous here, that that still leaves 83 to 90 (out of every 100) people who have read the book who did not leave a review. That’s a ton of folks who could say whether they liked or hated a book.

Do you talk about your favorite television shows? Do you tell your friends about them? How many of you tuned into The Walking Dead season premiere and then shared your thoughts with friends around the office or on Facebook or Twitter?

That’s what a book review is: sharing your thoughts with your friends, telling those friends about the wonderful, awful or average book you just finished reading. But not only are you sharing your thoughts with friends, you are sharing them with strangers who want to hear what you have to say about those books that you’ve read. You are helping them decide if a book is a good fit for them.

But wait, do you just tell your friends that you liked a television show? No. Of course you don’t. You tell them why you like that show. Come on, we all know that when something strikes us in a show or movie or a sporting event, we tell the why and the what, and we are either passionate about it or angry about it or indifferent. You just don’t say ‘I hated that’ and leave it alone. You tell why you hated it. And if you don’t, one of your friends will ask you ‘So, why did you hate it so much?’ They will ask such an open-ended question that it will require you to say something besides a yes or a no. You don’t just say ‘that was a great movie,’ you tell your friends why it was so great.

Why?

WHY?

WHY????

There is a method of madness when it comes to book reviews, but first, let me give you a glimpse of a few real book reviews that I pulled from that big e-book publishing machine on the Interweb (these are direct quotes, not altered at all by myself):

This was an ok short story not to exciting but worth the quick read! was hoping for a little more thrill.

I enjoyed this short story.

If you seen the movie Little Shop of Horrors Growing up this is that movie in writing. Movie is better, but teens would enjoy this.

Clever story about unwanted and unexpected house guests of the psychopathic kind. Very disturbing short story, well written and very twisted.

Ms. XXXXXXX’s collection of short stories brings us a look into some dark topics but they were well written and certainly draw a reader in. Each one will bring you different emotions and from different views. This title is certainly worth a read but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

I truly enjoyed this quick little read, it’s mildly creepy but not too much. I could see these stories being read on a stormy winter day, by a fireplace.
Just a little compilation of a few short stories, of true life happenings the author has experienced.

Predictable, Boring, etc. The reviews must come from friends.

I love short horror stories. However, this book lacked what I was looking for. The stories unfortunately left a lot to be desired. While it was not terrible it was not one of the better books I have read recently.

Now, before continuing on, some of these could be considered a good review, and not by the standard of stars, but by the standard of what the reader said. But go back and look at them a little closer. Honestly, ‘I enjoyed this short story,’ is not a review of the book/story. Sure, it’s nice that the reader said that, and as a writer, I like when readers say, ‘hey, A.J., I enjoyed your story.’

However, as a writer, I want to know why someone liked or disliked something I—or any other writer, for that matter—wrote. I want to know if the writing was good or bad, if the stories held your attention or you skimmed over sections, if you liked or disliked the characters, if I made you laugh, cry or want to punch me in the face. If the story is bad, I want to know what was so bad about it. If the story was great, don’t just say it was great, but tell me why it was great.

Writers constantly hear ‘show, don’t tell.’ We are constantly told readers want us to show how a person feels, not just say he is sick or in love or hurt or angry or dying. No, saying he had an angry look on his face doesn’t really show anything, does it? However, saying, ‘his brows were arched, the edges pointing down toward the nose, and his lips were pulled down into a sneer,’ gives us the actual angry look.

Reviews should be similar, but not in that ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy. It should be something like, oh I don’t know, ‘don’t just tell, but tell why.’ I don’t expect every reader out there to do a review like a writer would, but give the readers and authors more of an understanding behind your thought processes.

‘This book sucked, don’t waste your money,’ tells the reader absolutely nothing and that one star that is given with the review is not really validated, but it still hurts a writer’s overall numbers. It also hurts their sells. If you’re going to write something like that, then please, tell us why the book sucked.

And before you go thinking that all reviews have to be long to be good, that just isn’t true. Not everyone has the time or the desire to write long, in depth reviews. However, a little information about the book and the reasoning to why you love or hate it goes a long way with both the readers and the writers.

Okay, for those who like The Walking Dead, let me give you an example (oh and there could be some spoilers in this).

I love The Walking Dead.

Why?

I love zombies and I think the make up is fantastic and the way they are portrayed in TWD as relentless, flesh eating monsters makes them come alive.

What else?

It is character driven. You either love or hate the show because of the characters. I loved Dale, and when he got killed I was mad, because I wanted him to live. He was endearing and a voice of reason in a world gone mad. I wanted them to kill off Lori—my goodness she is annoying, and why doesn’t she know where her son is at all times?

And Shane was awesome before he went all jealous and angry at Rick, who has morphed into the Ricktator, which is a good thing.

Anything else?

Yeah, the suspense. You never know what is around the corner or who is going to get offed next.

So, is there anything you don’t like about it?

Umm… yeah.

What?

The zombies seem pretty nimble on their feet for a bunch of shambling, mindless corpses. I mean, how in the world is a zombie going to walk down an embankment and not fall down, and a living man stumbles, then rolls down that same embankment? And how can zombies climb fences or on top of tanks or drop down to the ground and slide beneath cars then get right back up as if their bodies are agile and not rotting away?

What else?

Lori. I can’t stand her. She’s stupid and I don’t understand how she hasn’t been killed yet and other, more adept people have died.

Anything else?

Have I said I don’t like Lori? I have? Okay, well, I don’t get why they don’t just kill all the zombies at the prison fence. You have them right there, why not go ahead and drive something into their skulls before they can break down the gates? They’re just asking for them to bust down the fence and kill them all.

And I don’t like Lori.

Interesting. So, you love the show, right?

Absolutely.

Why?

Well, let me summarize it for you: It may have its flaws, but the action and suspense and characters make it edge of the seat good. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves zombies or horror movies or even something that is character driven. It’s a gritty show with twist and turns in every episode, and there are just some scenes that leave you breathless and stunned.

I know that may be a little extreme and it is about a television show, and not necessarily the graphic novels the show is based on. However, this is what I do when I review a book. I ask myself those questions. Then I form my book reviews based on the answers. I give the good and the bad as I see it. I always try to end a review/critique on a positive note.

Sometimes a review has all positives, but that is rare. I try to be completely honest in my book reviews.

Here’s the thing: writers put themselves on the line every time they submit something to a publication or when they self-pub a book on their website or Amazon or Nook or anywhere for that matter. They are putting their hard work on the line for both praise and criticism.

More often than not, it is the criticism that is heard by other readers, not the praise. Stick with me for a little while longer here. How many times have you seen a ‘this book sucks’ review and thought, ‘maybe I shouldn’t get this book?’ However, what about when you read something like ‘I enjoyed this book,’ and that is the entire review? I’m willing to guess that most of the time readers think, ‘oh, that reviewer is just a friend of the writer.’

You see, the door doesn’t swing both ways evenly. The critical review is often taken with more weight, while what comes across as a superficial praise review is viewed less, and possibly even done by friends to help bolster the writer’s numbers. This is why I urge reviewers to give fair, honest reviews. If they have something negative to say, give us the justification for that. On the flip side, if you have something positive to say, tell us why.

I know. I know. ‘But I’m not good at giving reviews, A.J.’

You don’t have to be. I’ve been fortunate to have learned in workshops how to give critiques and I’ve had quite a few friends help me along the way with this educating of the mind. I’ve boiled them down to the three essentials:

The Positive, The Negative and The Summary.

Sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie.

Ask yourself what are the positives about this book? Then ask yourself what are the negatives about this book? Then summarize why you like or dislike the book. Even with those three essentials, The Why is the most important thing about a review. By having the positives and the negatives in mind, you can tell us The Why. It is what readers and writers alike are looking for.

You might disagree with me, and I’m okay with that. This is my opinion, based on what I have observed in the writing world.

How much weight does a single review carry? I don’t know. What I do know is that many readers do look at them before purchasing a book.

In closing, do you review? Are you one of the anywhere between 1 and 10% who actually review books? If so, thank you, not only from me, but from all of the writers out there. If not, then I urge you to consider reviewing the books you read, and don’t just say the book is good or bad, but tell us why you feel it is so.

Before I go, I would like to remind the masses that The Coffin Hop is under way and it is now Day 4. Visit this link to hop to any of the blogs of those participating. Leave comments and likes and all that good stuff. We greatly appreciate you stopping by.

Now, I must go for a while. I have some hopping and some sleeping and, hopefully some writing to do.

Until we meet again, my friends…

My Wife Believes In Me and Other Notes

My wife believes in me. I’m not sure why, but I’m not about to asks questions. I just like the fact that she believes in me. She keeps me going, keeps me smiling—and for those who have known me for a long time, you know I’m not a big smiler, but when she’s around, the smiles are, too.

The old saying is something like: ‘Behind every successful man is a great woman.’ A lot of men will argue that, but the smart ones won’t. I’m not successful and I’m not all that smart, but I have a great woman and she doesn’t stand behind me, she stands beside me.

If not for my wife, Catherine (though she prefers to go by Cate), I would have quit writing a long time ago. No one has ever encouraged me the way she has. No one else has said, ‘keep going,’ or ‘you’ll get there one day.’ No one else has had to listen to me talk about it as much as she has either. I’m surprised she hasn’t started charging for advice. Five cents, please.

For all you male writers out there, if you have a wife who supports your efforts and stands by you even though you absolutely drive her bonkers with your constant chatter about writing this or that or the other (and we all know there is a LOT of the other), tell her thank you. Because, whether you believe it or not, the support your woman gives you is worth more than any book contract you can sign.

So, to my wife, Cate, thank you for always supporting me and putting up with my constant writer’s gab (and all my other issues as well).

***

Recently, this article surfaced out on the blogosphere:

Q&A Why Write Amazon Reviews

Let’s couple that link with this one:

Amazon Reader Reviews: 12 Things Everybody and His Grandmother Needs to Know

Both of these articles are about doing reviews and why readers should do them.

If you will allow me, I would like to quote something from the second of these two links:

It… means that Amazon reviews, which were only mildly significant three years ago, now have a make-or-break impact on an author’s sales.

Yes, the reviews (or lack of) on Amazon have a great effect on how a book sells or even if it sells. So do the ‘likes’ and the ‘tags,’ which you, the readers can also add.

I encourage all of you out there to consider reviewing books that you purchase from Amazon. It can help the writer tremendously. Also, remember the stars thing. If you give a book glowing praise, then your star rating should reflect the same high praise. On the other hand, if you don’t particularly like a book, tell the writer why. Don’t just say, hey, this book is lousy. It sucks. That doesn’t help the writer and it only deters other readers from considering the book. Be objective in your reviews, and no, you don’t have to go full out and write an essay on the books.

It’s not all that much work and it can help the struggling writer.

Some of you may have just rolled your eyes and I bet you’re thinking, ‘this is all just a plea to get more sells and reviews.’

You’re not too far off in your assessment, but it’s really the other way around. It’s about garnering more reviews to help with sells, and not just for me, but other writers as well.

If you liked a book, or even if you didn’t like one, share your thoughts—it is more helpful than you think it is.

One caveat: If you leave a bad review, there is no reason to be mean. Be honest and sincere, but keep the meanness. Those aren’t helpful, only hurtful. Helpful reviews are the honest and sincere ones, whether they are good or bad.

Now you can roll your eyes.

I now ask those of you out there who have read Along the Splintered Path, to consider reviewing it, consider liking it, consider adding your own tags or like the tags already there.

Don’t just do it for me, but for other writers as well. We all appreciate the help.

Until we meet again, my friends…