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text 2017-11-30 15:50
November Wrap-up
Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley
Captives of the Flame (The Fall of the Towers, #1) - Samuel R. Delany
Dark Carnival - Nancy K. Duplechain
Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell
First Person: A novel - Richard Flanagan
Children's book: Moshe Comes to Visit: Fun Rhyming book about Overcoming fears and positive thinking - Tehila Sade Moyal,Fatima Pires
Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra - Anne Rice,Christopher Rice
The Discovery of Witches - Hopkins, Matthew

Eight books finished this month and two more well in progress. An easy favourite among the above would be Fools and Mortals, but Cornwell is a great author. Dark Carnival gets the award for best indie and I've put her other two books on my ereaderiq list.

 

This was mostly a month for clearing Netgalley and fulfilling holiday Bingo reads. I have one and a half netgalley books still to finish and highly recommend The Toy Makers, which I'm halfway through! I also have the science book to finish for my Newtonmass square, but it's time travel so I'm enjoying that too.

 

I have some books put aside for this year's Christmas reads.  I'll post about those soon.

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review 2017-11-05 11:33
Ramses the Damned
Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra - Anne Rice,Christopher Rice

by Anne & Christopher Rice

 

Curiosity got the better of me on this collaboration. Once upon a time I loved reading Anne Rice's early vampire books and I've enjoyed one book by Christopher Rice (Vines) despite being written in present tense (the ultimate sin).

 

So, I started reading and my first impression was that it had the tone of those early vampire books and that perhaps the collaboration with her son was what Anne needed to get back on track. I started having some doubts when it became overtly sexual and the emphasis on gay sex started to impede the story flow. I don't object to gay sex, but I generally don't want to read about a lot of sex in general. It also dragged in a few places.

 

It's the story of Bektaten (totally fictional) who developed a formula to attain eternal life. The formula comes to Ramses and then the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, making them both immortal. Each of them shared their immortality with a few favorites and conflicts ensue.

 

This isn't, as I had assumed, a new vampire novel. No blood drinking has taken place. The immortality elixer is a new thing, not explored in any previous books I've read by either author, though there are some Ramses books by Anne Rice that I haven't read so this might be a series I just wasn't aware of. The Egyptian theme seems to be a favorite of hers.

 

The important thing is that I was drawn into the story and began to get to know the characters and all their foibles. My sympathies were naturally with Cleopatra, as she's a favorite historical figure, though not the nicest person in this story. I had some problem with keeping secondary characters in context as they weren't as well-defined as they needed to be, but it all fell into place near the end when the significance of their roles comes to fruition.

 

I found it interesting how the story explored concepts of reincarnation and afterlife, encompassing a few different belief systems within the plot and the beliefs of the main characters. The end seemed to drag out a long time, but the loose ends were all tidied up while still leaving room for some of the characters to appear in a new story.

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text 2017-10-30 23:49
Reading progress update: I've read 29%.
Beauty's Kingdom - Anne Rice,A.N. Roquelaure

I have no time to read these days. This is taking forever.

 

Well, I've progressed almost 30% of the way through Beauty's Kingdom, which seems to make up the whole of the first act. The series is much improved by the removal of the non-consensual aspect. Not much else to say otherwise.

 

That is all.

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text 2017-10-25 19:14
Follow-up to Over Priced at $0.00 -- How the scam worked
Promised to an Earl: Arranged Marriage Historical Romance (Victorian Historical Romance) - Joyce Carroll

Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 6 January 2016.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of adult fiction and general interest non-fiction.

 

 

 

Thanks to comments by Darth Pony and Alexandra's Adventures in Books to my original "Over Priced at $0.00,"  I did some further research on how the scammers have operated to screw over readers -- and writers! -- via the Kindle Unlimited program.  Because I already had this item purchased and downloaded, it provides perfect material for analysis.

 

As you can see from the above screen shot (taken today), this item is now listed at $0.99 and is not available for Kindle Unlimited reading.  The lone Amazon review is a one-star warning not to buy the book.

 

According to the product information, this "book" is now 37 pages long.

 

 

Here's how the scam worked.

 

When Kindle Unlimited began, authors were paid the full royalty on any KU book the reader turned 10% of the pages.  This quickly proved too easy to scam, so the process was changed.  Authors were then paid a set amount per page turned (whether actually read or not).  It was still easy to pad books by double or triple spacing, leaving blank pages between chapters, and so on.  At that point Amazon came up with Kindle Edition Normalized Pages ("KENP"), which basically amounts to counting pages by equivalent words.  The current approximation is ~187 words per page, and the current royalty payment is ~$0.005 (one half cent) per KENP.

 

What the scammers did was to bundle dozens (literally dozens) of these short books/stories into a single volume, slap a cover and title on it, and publish it via Kindle Direct Publishing and enroll it in the KU program.  One book, of course, wouldn't be enough to rake in lots of royalties, so they took the same dozens of stories, shuffled the order, and republished them in other collections.  With new covers and new titles, they looked like another whole product, even though they weren't.

 

(I have some more of these in my Kindle collection and I'll try to locate and post more screen shots later.)

 

Once the reader was enticed to download the book via KU, she encountered various enticements, such as this:

 

 

Yes, "at the very end of this Book."  But, look at the number at the very bottom of this page:  116459. 

 

By comparison, Marsha Canham's full-length historical romance Bound by the Heart only yields 6801 "locations."  (These are not actual pages; I'm not sure exactly what measurement is used.)

 

 

A single click to the end of 116,459 brought the scammers 17 times the KU royalty that a full-length novel by a real author would have brought.  If the reader found out the material was crappy, she didn't much care, because it came "free" with her monthly KU subscription.  There really wasn't much incentive to leave a negative review, and it would only have taken more of her time, which she may have already considered wasted.  Why waste more on a negative review?

 

Whether "Joyce Carroll" really is a New York Times bestselling author remains to be discovered.  She may have been one of those who sold a big bunch of books in a collection for $0.99 and ended up on some list.  Again, it's a scam.

 

Now, are readers hurt by this?  Well, they are if they spend good money on this crap.  I confess I haven't actually looked at the "Promised to an Earl" story yet, but the others I looked at were pretty poor fare.  Still, most KU readers probably only look at the time they spent on books they otherwise wouldn't have read, because there's no actual money involved for them.

 

Authors, however, are directly impacted.

 

The KU pool is determined by Amazon each month, and it is then divided amongst the participating books by those KENPs actually turned.  To give you an idea of how that works out, my book The Looking-Glass Portrait is listed at 391 pages on Kindle; Marsha Canham's book is listed at 406, so pretty darn close to equal.  LGP is calculated to have 827 KENPs.  So this scam book "Promised to an Earl" generated roughly $68.00 in royalties each time someone clicked on that link to take them to the end of the book for a freebie.

 

Sixty-eight dollars.

 

That $68.00 was pulled out of the pool of funds available to the authors who actually wrote books and lent them via Kindle Unlimited.

 

And we don't know how many of these scam books were actually listed.

 

Here's the review I did of one, however, along with one page from the text to show spacing and the location amount on the bottom.

 

 

Apparently Amazon has tried to rein in some of these scam books.  I don't know if The Second Sister has been trimmed down so it doesn't add up the KENPs; I'll check later.

 

But, friends and fellow readers, this is just another reason why negative reviews are important.  This is why we can't just shrug our shoulders and say "There's nothing I can do about it."  These tactics are wrong.  They hurt real authors, and they hurt real readers by depriving them of the well-written books real authors are putting out there.

 

Deal with it, Anne Rice. Deal with it.

 

 

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text 2017-10-25 02:45
Over priced at $0.00
The Westward Bride - Catherine Scott
Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon on 23 October 2017.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of adult romance fiction and general-interest non-fiction.
 
This book was published on 17 October 2017, six days ago.  It currently has no reviews on Amazon.  It ranks quite high on Kindle free downloads.
 
 
No actual publisher is listed in the limited amount of front matter on the book.  There are links to a website aweber dot com that may (or may not) be a publisher of some sort.
 
Only 14% of this "book" actually consists of the title story The Westward Bride.  The balance is other "more hot romance stories."
 
The Westward Bride is immediately recognizable as unprofessionally prepared because of the lack of publishing information, but also because it is poorly formatted.
 
 
Now we get to the writing.  There are the obvious punctuation errors.  There are the frequent changes of tense.  By the second page, many more errors come to light.
 
 
American usage limits "dry goods" traditionally to fabrics, notions, and similar merchandise, distinct from groceries, even dry commodities such as flour.  Molasses is not even close.
 
The word "disinterested" is misused; the word wanted here is "uninterested."
 
The story will soon be seen to be set sometime after the death of Joseph Wilson in 1879.  The Panama Canal was not started until 1881, by France.  After France abandoned the project, the United States picked it up in 1904 and spent the next ten years completing it.
 
All of that information is readily available, and there is no excuse whatsoever for any author to have got it wrong.  Not in late 2017.  Not in the first two pages.
 
Is this the kind of work Anne Rice would insist readers give four or five stars?  Why?  To support a small, struggling, indie writer?  How do we even know that's the kind of person who wrote it?  It's bad writing.  It's bad publishing.  Even if Rice's objective is to support writers and publishers and the hell with the readers, how would support of this kind of garbage help anyone?
 
As a writer of romances, I can't give this book a negative review on Amazon, per both Amazon's guidelines and Federal Trade Commission regulations. Even if I were to identify myself as a romance writer, it's still against the rules for me to post a negative review of my competition on a commercial site.
 
Now, you may be wondering what's in it for the author of this drivel, if the book is free.  Here's the listing the day after I downloaded it.
 
 
The price is now $3.99, and maybe some people will pay that much for it, netting the author somewhere around $2.50 for each copy sold.  It's much more likely, however, that sales will come through Kindle Unlimited, where the author gets paid by the number of pages read.  Whether it's one page or 200, the author gets paid for each one on KU.
 
And there are dozens of these crappy books out there.  Some feature a Highlander main story, or a Regency, or a medieval, but the format is the same.  All poorly written, all poorly formatted.
 
Anne Rice would have us say nothing.
 
I guess she wants to raise up generations of readers who have no appreciation for good writing, who can't tell the difference between what a "real" book looks like and garbage.
 
But, hey, Anne, just keep calling me a thug reviewer.  I'll wear the title as a badge of honor.
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