July 14, 2016

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Return once again to the enduring account of life in the Mojo lane, to the Permian Panthers of Odessa--the winningest high school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true. With frankness and compassion, Bissinger chronicles one of the Panthers' dramatic seasons and shows how single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community and inspires--and sometimes shatters--the teenagers who wear the Panthers' uniforms.
Growing up in the northern Midwest with a high school football team that probably couldn’t even score on themselves, the lifestyle portrayed in this book is so foreign to me. . . sort of.

Aside from being a massive book nerd, I am also a huge sports fan. I attended my high school football games. I watch the Chicago Bears every Sunday during the season, I bleed my Chicago Blackhawks colors.

So, I understand the sports fanaticism side of the book.

Let’s go back to the foreign part – these athletes are TEENAGERS. Teenagers from difference backgrounds (increasingly moreso as the years go along, more on that later). But they are treated like professional football players. The morale of the whole town depends on whether the Permian Panthers can pull out a win under those Friday night lights. They are put under so much pressure, it is amazing to me that they don’t snap more often.

But this book also breaks my heart. The amount of disgusting racism that was prevalent in this story was just so sad. Yes, it is Texas. Yes, it was a few decades ago, but WOW. I feel like I could go on forever about this point, but it is really something that you just have to actually read to understand.
Let me say this – anyone who has ever gone to a high school football game KNOWS the feeling of those lights. 

Like I said, my high school football team was so bad. So, so bad. But I enjoyed going to those games. There is a certain atmosphere at a high school football game that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but being someone who has experienced it – just the TITLE of the book spoke to me.

That and I love… Love… LOVE the TV series. This book may have gotten a little monotonous at times, but I carried on because I genuinely enjoyed it and the subject matter.

The end of this book was absolutely heartbreaking, but it was so wonderfully written. Once I got to the last 50 pages or so, my heart was beating so fast, and nothing was going to get me to put down the book.

This review has probably been all over the place. But my emotions got the better of me with this book.

5/5 Stars. A Must Read.

Memorable Quotes: “They were fearless and relentlessly coached and from the time they were able to walk they had only one certain goal in their lives in Odessa, Texas. Whatever it took, they would play for Permian.”

“There was a heartbeat in those stands that dotted the Friday nights of Texas and Oklahoma and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and all of America like a galaxy of stars, a giant, lurking heartbeat.” 

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July 11, 2016

The Trial by James Patterson

An accused murderer called Kingfisher is about to go on trial for his life. Or is he? By unleashing unexpected violence on the lawyers, jurors, and police involved in the case, he has paralyzed the city. Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club are caught in the eye of the storm.

I have finally read a bookshot that I enjoyed. Okay, it was only the third one I have read, but the other two were so disappointing, it seems like I read more.
Maybe it is just because I love the WMC series too much, or maybe it is Maxine Paetro’s writing that saved this one.

Whatever it was, thank god! I was starting to lose hope in them.

I think this storyline is what bookshots were made for, and the first two didn’t hit the mark.
The Trial, as the title explains, follows one trial. The book is all about the one trial. I didn’t feel like any information was left out in this short format, and I didn’t feel like I was cheated. I could have read a full length novel and been satisfied as well, but it worked for bookshots.

5/5 Stars

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July 9, 2016

Designing Your Own Book Cover: How to Select The Right Image

Hello, everyone! We have an exciting guest post today from Kari Anders about cover design. The link to her website can be found at the end of this post. You can also find it in the top bar under Author Resources! Enjoy :)
In Elements of a Book Cover that Sells, I talk about creating a cover that speaks directly to your audience by using the idea of a Single Story. In the following post, I expand on this idea by giving helpful tips on finding the base layer for your cover: the image.

Your image should convey the mood of your story. If you’ve written a fun-loving, silly, woman’s novel, your cover might be an illustration of a lady in heels with a pink background. If your book explores the story of a missing woman, it might have a dark background with a woman running away. If it’s a love story, readers will expect a couple holding hands or kissing on the cover. All these components convey the mood of the book and attract your audience.

If the mood is not evident, you will miss potential readers. When readers go searching for a new book, they usually know what type of book they want to read. If nothing else, they know what types of book they have enjoyed in the past. They will be attracted to images that remind them of another book they’ve read. This relationship connects the reader to an emotion they felt while reading that book. For instance, I had recently finished Where’d You Go Bernadette and was looking for a new read. I saw the novel How to Write a Novel, with its blue cover and illustrations and bought it. Why? It reminded me of Bernadette. That’s it. I wasn’t even looking for a book like Bernadette; I just subconscious equated the cover of Bernadette with a book I like.

Often authors spend energy on trying to get their cover image to be unique, and to stand out from the crowd. While really, they should have been doing the opposite.

You may have noticed that in all of the examples at the beginning of this article, I suggest having images of people on the cover (the woman in pink heels, the couple kissing, etc.). As an author, you may be tempted to steer away from covers that give away too much detail that you’d rather let the reader imagine. One of the reasons I believe readers like books over their film adaptations, is because they get to bring the scene to life using their own imagination. The same applies to the characters in a book. Giving too much detail away can take away this experience from the readers. So why do I suggest books with images of people? Simply, they sell better.

You many see that some covers don’t have the full person or even just avoid their face on the cover. You might see only a woman’s legs or feet, or you might see her face below the nose. This allows your readers to still create the characters using their own imagination while still creating a book cover that sells.

The other advantage of showing only a part of a character is that it allows you to simplify your cover. If you are trying to convey too much information to your readers, it will be busy and overwhelming and will distract them from absorbing the story’s mood. Remember, you want to sell them a single story. Don’t try to input double meanings, or symbols that the reader will only understand once they’ve read the book. Symbolism is for your writing. You aren’t trying to sell them on your cleverness with a book cover.

To convey the mood, keep it simple, and focus on a single story, you want to be obvious with your images, but not necessarily literal. You don’t want readers to have to guess or search for your cover is about. But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be a specific scene from your story to convey the mood, and being too literal can destroy the intrigue you want to create. Let me show you what I mean:

Bad Cover: The problem with this cover is that it is too literal. You can actually tell that this is a scene from the book. You might read the book with the anticipation in your head of getting to that scene. But readers are, in their own opinion, better imaginators than any author. Therefore, you are certain to disappoint. There are too many details in this cover that need to synchronize with the readers’ imagination. How many times have you seen a book made into a movie and found something in the movie that played out way better in your head?

Good Cover: The following cover could very well be the same book. It’s obvious this story is also about a woman who is gone, missing or taken (as the title suggests). You don’t have to decipher a code in the image to get a sense for what the book is about. But at the same time, this cover isn’t so literal. You get to conjure up an image as to what might be happening because you aren’t force fed a scene.

Here’s a test: Once you have selected an image, forget your story. Can you create a powerful title on the picture alone? Does that title do your book justice? If not, keep looking.

The most common place authors and designers find images for book covers is stock image sites. There are hundreds of thousands of images to choose from, and they are usually between $10 and $25 per image. With a stock image from Shutterstock.com or iStock.com, you can sell between 250,000 and 500,000 books before you have to worry about purchasing additional licensing. There are also sites you can find free stock images, but make sure you read and fully understand the terms of copyright before using an image from one of these sites. DO NOT use an unlicensed image from a Google images search, even if you don’t think you are going to sell very many books, as this will most certainly earn you a letter from an attorney asking you to remove it at the least, and a lawsuit at the worst.

The advantages of using stock images are selection, price, and availability. To find an image for a previous post, I used the search terms “girl in front of a ship” and found 42 pages of results. That’s a pretty specific request. Also, stock image sites are also regularly updated their inventory, and they tag images by a number of categories, including model. So if you find a model that you like, but the image isn’t quite right, you can find other photos with the same model. This is very useful for a book series.

A drawback to using stock imaging is uniqueness. Stock sites will sell an image infinite number of times, meaning that even though your typography and location of the photo might be unique, another author might end up with the same image on their cover. Professional publishing houses will spend thousands hiring a photographer and models to get unique images for their covers. However, this isn’t a possibility for most self-published authors. On freeebookcovers.com, I am building a collection of non-stock images from local photographers I’ve worked with over the years. Check back soon for the launch of Original Images, and happy writing!

July 7, 2016

Cross Kill by James Patterson

Alex Cross, I'm coming for you--even from the grave if I have to.

Along Came a Spider killer Gary Soneji has been dead for over ten years. Alex Cross watched him die. But today, Cross saw him gun down his partner. Is Soneji alive? A ghost? Or something even more sinister?

Nothing will prepare you for the wicked truth.
So, with 2 bookshots read, I have liked a total of 0 of them. Yeah, it was nice to read about the Cross family again, but that’s about it.
Just like with Zoo 2, this book felt so POINTLESS. Warning, spoilers coming right now –
Soneji isn’t even alive. All this book did was make you think he was, but then just unearthed his fan group.
The only reason Sampson got shot is so that this book would sell copies. Any fan of the Cross series will like John and they will want to know what happens.
This book felt purely like a money grab. It added nothing to the series. It didn’t progress it at all, and I was bored and disappointed. Again.


1/5 stars

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