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review 2019-12-15 16:29
The Wrythe and the Reckoning - Everything wrong and nothing right
The Wrythe and the Reckoning - Yvonthia Leland

Preliminary assessment here:



Disclosure: I acquired the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 14 December 2019.  I have encountered the author on Twitter, where she has viciously attacked reviewers. (She has also attacked them on GoodReads, but I'm not there.)  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted nonfiction.


If you want to be a championship figure skater, you get out on the ice every day and practice.  You fall down a lot and the ice is cold and hard and it hurts.  You get back up and practice some more.  You listen to your coach.  You watch videos of your own performances and those of other skaters.  You analyze each move, each success, each failure.  Especially the failures.  You practice and you practice and you practice.  You understand and accept that you alone are responsible for your success or failure, while at the same time you acknowledge and appreciate the help you've received along the way from teachers and coaches and supporters and critics and competitors. 


Author Yvonthia Leland thought she could win Olympic gold before she knew how to skate backwards.  It's almost as if she didn't know skating backwards was a thing and that you had to be able to do that in order to win . . . anything.


Reviewing the book The Wrythe and the Reckoning outside the context of the author's behavior is impossible once you've been inside that behavior.  It colors the reading and colors the reviewing.  It's so pervasive that I couldn't read a single line without mentally seeing the GoodReads and Twitter pages projected on a huge screen behind the Kindle images. 


She sent an ARC to NetGalley without knowing reviews of NetGalley ARCs are supposed to be sent to sites like GoodReads.  She sent an ARC that consisted of a rough draft of only half the book, without knowing that ARCs are supposed to be virtually the finished product, complete, edited, ready for publication.  She didn't know the basics, and yet trumpeted her lack of knowledge on GoodReads, on Facebook, on Twitter.


No matter how much pushback she got on GoodReads and on Twitter, she persisted in her wrongheadedness regarding ARCs.  She made her ignorance clear in flashing neon lights.  And she took out her wrath on those who tried to at least inform her of her ignorance.


She's not the first.  She won't be the last.  But her combination of ignorance and arrogance transcends even the viciousness of a Melissa Douthit, the pomposity of a Maggie Spence, or the tearful whininess of a Raani York.  If authorial stupidity were an Olympic sport, Yvonthia would sweep gold, silver, and bronze all by herself.


So, how bad is the book itself?  It's terrible.


The cover, as I wrote on the previous post, is nice to look at, but the plain fonts scream amateur.  There's no teaser line, no description.  These things are helpful for the reader who downloads a book -- especially when it's free -- and goes back later to read.  They've probably forgotten the description from the Amazon listing and need a refresher.  "Braving life in the big city, she faced the twin challenges of love and danger!"  That sort of thing.  So on an ordinary grading scale, let's say the cover earns a C+.


The front matter -- everything from inside teaser to the actual start of the narrative -- is a mess.  The title page is another amateur effort, with a pretty border around almost useless information. What's the difference between "The Wrythe and the Reckoning" as a book and "The Wrythe and the Reckoning" as the saga?  "Reverie Ardent" isn't identified as the publisher, so it's just words without meaning.  "The Special Note" is just an ordinary dedication; the "Introduction" is more blathering not needed for the reader's enjoyment of the text.


And then there's "The Preface."


I quit after reading the first paragraph of the preface.  The usage error stopped me cold after all the other problems I'd encountered getting to this point.  The author's public online behavior was enough of a turn-off.  Her lack of knowledge of how publishing in the 21st century works was more than enough.  The unprofessional production standards further discouraged me from going further.  Why, faced with poor writing skills on the very first page, should I go to the next?  I didn't.  I stopped.  I wrote my preliminary review based on that one paragraph of the preface.  Thank you, Josh Olson.


But that's where I made my mistake.  I took Leland's "The Preface" as a prologue, as part of the narrative.



I suppose you could say it was by chance, or maybe destiny, but I prefer to not think of it in that sense. Perhaps instead, I took one road which lead me to another, and then to another, and so forth.

Leland, Yvonthia. The Wrythe and the Reckoning (The Wrythe and the Reckoning Saga Book 1) . Reverie Ardent. Kindle Edition.


It seemed like a short opening paragraph, the first person narrator reflecting on how her adventure began.  The opening of Dickens's David Copperfield is somewhat similar:


Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

David Copperfield (p. 1). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.


But Dickens provided a true preface to his work, and added subsequent commentary on subsequent editions; the Kindle edition I have includes both the original 1850 Preface as well as one dated 1869.


Leland, however, seems not to understand exactly what a preface is -- and probably doesn't understand what a prologue is either.  The brief paragraph quoted above is the entire thing!  It's not the beginning of the book; it's her statement of her own journey.  As a writer?  As a person?  It's just not . . . right.


I didn't discover this until later last night when I determined to try to read at least a significant part of the book in order to assess the writing fairly.  To go from that one-paragraph preface directly into the narrative was quite a jolt.  I thought I had missed something, skipped a page.  But no, that's all there is.


Now, the problem with all the author's online histrionics is that she revealed certain information that can't be unrevealed.  As an individual reader, I can't just forget what I know about this book and about the character and even about what other reviewers have said about it.  That knowledge makes the author's failures even more apparent than they might be to another, less-informed reader.


In the text, there's no indication when the story takes place.  In the spring, yes, but of what year? 1800? 1820?  1850?  1859? 1875?  1919?  1680?


I know, personally, from reading the author's comments here and there, that the events are set sometime prior to the American Civil War, during a time when slavery was still an issue. But that still leaves a lot of decades open, and the reader who doesn't know the time frame at all would be at a complete loss.


This is further complicated by the description Leland provides of the conveyance the family is traveling in.  The opening line states that it's a wagon, and so in my mind I pictured an open farm wagon pulled by a team of horses or mules.  The parents might be sitting on the front seat, perhaps with a small child between them.  Other children would be sitting or lying in the back, surrounded by the family's furniture and other possessions. Maybe there's a milk cow ambling along behind the wagon, or a dog curled up with the children.


Again, my impression based on the knowledge Leland has provided in her online rants about the time frame for the novel and my own experience reading lots of books set in the nineteenth century is thrown for a loop when she begins describing this wagon.  It has a table! And side benches!  And a back bench with a window!


Sounds more like a Class A motorhome than a "wagon."


The narrator's brothers are playing marbles at the table. How does one play marbles on a table in a moving vehicle? Especially a vehicle that's probably traveling over unpaved, uneven country roads.  Her mother is knitting a shawl on the side bench.  She herself is sitting on the back bench looking out the window. 


This is the opposite of an invisible manuscript.


As a writer, you (should) want your reader to see the scene you're creating with your words. You don't want the reader to look at the words, go back a page or two to try to figure out what those words mean, then come back and read some more.  You want the pages to disappear.  Leland here is doing exactly the opposite.  And it's not just with the wagon.


We don't know the gender or age or name of the narrator.  We get the names and ages of the brothers, and there are references to an older sister.  I only know the narrator's gender because of the online drama; there's no reference to her being a girl so far into the book.  The sister is four years older, and then there's a mention of the house they're leaving.


My father and grandfather had helped to build the house about nineteen years prior, a few months after Abby was born.

Leland, Yvonthia. The Wrythe and the Reckoning (The Wrythe and the Reckoning Saga Book 1) . Reverie Ardent. Kindle Edition.


So now I have to go back to confirm that Abby is the older sister by four years and thus the unnamed narrator is somewhere between fifteen and sixteen.


All of this pushes me out of the story, when I want to be pulled in.


But again, what I know from the external context collides with the text itself to push me further away.  I know this story takes place prior to the American Civil War.  I know from the text that the narrator is in her middle teens and that the family is leaving a village where she has lived all her life.  Yet she references her classmates.


In that moment, it occurred to me that perhaps what my classmates said was true that our lives will change for the worst and we’ll never see the village. . . .

Leland, Yvonthia. The Wrythe and the Reckoning (The Wrythe and the Reckoning Saga Book 1) . Reverie Ardent. Kindle Edition.


What kind of school would she have been attending in rural New Hampshire in the first half of the nineteenth century?  The fact that I as a reader need to ask this question signifies that the author hasn't done her job.  Imagine how much clearer the mental picture would have been if Leland had written something like


I had been lucky.  Our little village of Deerfield had a fine school because Mr. Alford the schoolmaster had not only attended the college at Dartmouth but even studied at the great university in Cambridge, England.  I so loved my studies that Mr. Alford prevailed upon my parents to let me continue well past the age when I should have finished any formal education required of a female.


This gives an explanation of how there was a school in their village and why she was still there.  To put all of this in historical context, Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame was born in 1867 and began teaching school in 1882 at the age of 15.


Authors don't have twenty or thirty pages to grab a reader's interest.  I don't care if the book is 813 pages long and needs 150 pages of warm-up.  I want to know right from the beginning, from page one, paragraph one, that this is a book I'm going to be interested in.


Yvonthia Leland turned me off her book before I'd even started it, but I took a look out of morbid curiosity and because it was free.  I know from her comments online that the story isn't going to be wrapped up in 400 pages, which is what she put on NetGalley, nor in 813 pages.  If I'm going to invest the time and effort -- and apparently money, since this volume is now priced at $8.49 -- to read that kind of narrative, it had better be damned good.  It's not.


The writing itself is pedestrian.  There's nothing exquisite about the individual sentences, and they're sequenced into a prose narrative that's lackluster at best.  Everything is told, nothing is shown.  Details make no sense in the historical context, and certain crucial information -- revealed only in the author's online comments -- is withheld from the reader.  (There's a section of the book that seemed very problematic to me on this particular point, but I'm going to reserve that analysis for later, when I can devote more time to it.)


Bottom line:  This is a book that should never have been published simply because it's so poorly written.  The author needs to strap on her skates, take a few falls, find a coach, and start over again.  And again.  And again.  There are books out there that will help her, blogs and patreons and other resources.  She needs to apologize abjectly to each and every one of her critics and shut her fingers up until she's had some serious criticism and listened to it.


Her writing sucks.



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text 2019-12-15 03:53
Writhing through the reckoning . . . the utter horror of truly terrible writing and worse behavior
The Wrythe and the Reckoning - Yvonthia Leland

Disclosure: I acquired the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 14 December 2019.  I have encountered the author on Twitter, where she has viciously attacked reviewers. (She has also attacked them on GoodReads, but I'm not there.)  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted nonfiction.


Pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, but keep the bottle/pot close by because this is going to be a long one.


The Kindle edition says it was published 4 December 2019.  ARCs via NetGalley were apparently distributed as early as January 2019, as evidenced by reviews posted on GoodReads.



Between January and April 2019, several GoodReads members posted reviews, most of them identifying the source as the NetGalley ARC. Most of the reviews were one- and two-stars, with a lot of DNFs.


In April, the author came to GoodReads and posted her own comments (not a review?) explaining that the ARC was not the whole book.




It's logical to assume, then, that the author doesn't know what an ARC is, or at least is supposed to be. 


An Advance Reading Copy is the full text, not half of a rough draft, distributed to readers to generate publicity and "buzz" prior to publication.  Other than minor last minute edits, an ARC should be the final version of the book.  Usually the ARC is sent out a few months -- but not a full year -- prior to scheduled publication.


Author Leland apparently believed that an "ARC novel" was some kind of partial rough draft sent out for . . . what?  Critiques?  Free editing?  Proofreading?


Though she admitted the ARC was only a "partial novel," she claimed NetGalley readers loved it.  I know nothing about NetGalley, so I have no idea how that works.  But she also claimed that it wasn't supposed to be reviewed on GoodReads.  She doesn't know what she's doing.  Of course ARCs are allowed to be reviewed on GoodReads.  That's what they're for!


(One of the commenters on GoodReads posted the relevant ratings from NetGalley; they averaged a 2.88.)


Leland then popped up on Twitter on 12 December 2019, again scolding readers and reviewers.  There was a lot of pushback, with screenshots of her GoodReads posts and Facebook posts added to the discussion.


As of this moment -- approx. 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 14 December 2019 -- there are no reviews posted for the book on Amazon.  There have been additional listings/ratings posted to GoodReads on 13 and 14 December, probably in response to the Twitter discussion.  There are no good reviews.


I'm going to take my dogs outside, finish making my bed, and then come back to this.




On 12 December 2019, Author Leland posted this on Twitter:



(The only drama on GoodReads is what she herself has generated.  No one has been rude to her, though many have pointed out her errors, such as her belief that the book was put on GoodReads in violation of GoodReads policy, and so on.)


Despite being directly addressed about the wrongness of her behavior, Leland has not removed the tweet.  Nor has she responded, at least not on Twitter.  This, however, was captured from her Facebook account:






The GoodReads thread of comments on Rhonda's review is illuminating, but Leland has not apologized nor acknowledged that she did anything wrong.


Soooooo . . . . .


I downloaded the free Kindle edition.


The cover is nice.  I suppose it could have used a more imaginative font, but it's okay.


The title page is weird.




I had to go back to the Amazon listing to discover that "Reverie Ardent" is the name of the publisher.


I'm not sure why the title is listed twice without some graphic to distinguish between the book and the series.  And it seems to me if the saga is "The Wrythe and the Reckoning," shouldn't the two books comprising it have different titles?  Oh, well, maybe that's just me.


Next comes the Table of Contents.



Special Note, Introduction, and a Preface.  Hmmmmmm. . . . .









I did these as screen shots rather than Kindle snips because I wanted to make sure the visual impression came through, not just the text.


All the rest of the nonsense aside, I fall back on the Josh Olson Protocol:



Had this been just another author-published freebie, I would have quit at the end of that first page.  All the preceding nonsense probably wouldn't have stopped me; more than likely I'd skip over it to get to the story.


But when the first page contains a common usage error, I know without a doubt that the author -- and I use the word very loosely -- is not a writer.  More than likely she's not a reader either.  She's probably very young and has never engaged in any serious genre fiction writing and critique.  If you click through to the "About the Author" page, it says she graduated from college with a degree in sociology (that's my field, by the way), but the syntax is that of an artistically immature writer who thinks she's impressing the reader.  She's not.  She has a link to the publisher's website -- it's her own blog.


The whole project, and the way it's been presented, is a catastrophe.  We've seen others here like it, and before BookLikes there were disasters on GoodReads.  Right now it's ranked quite high in the Kindle freebie listing, but no doubt that's due to the buzz she's generated by being such an ass.


Under normal circumstances, I would let this go at this point. The author has behaved abominably.  The product is substandard.  The writing is worthless.  But I'm angry.  There have been too many self-publishing authors getting on my last nerve this week, and I have enough other crap going on in my life right now that makes me disinclined to be charitable to the stupids.


Review to come.

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review 2019-10-01 21:36
Reading progress update: I've read 34%. And maybe DNF. At least long-term hold
Significant Others - Sandra Kitt

Disclosure:  I acquired the Open Road Integrated Media Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon.  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 historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.


Originally published in 1996, this purports to be a contemporary romance novel.  I'm just not finding much romance in it.


Patricia Gilbert is a high school counselor in a Brooklyn public school.  Morgan Braxton is owner and CEO of what I think is something like a vulture capital company, but I'm not sure.  He has a fuck buddy Beverly who I think is a lawyer.  Kent Braxton is his son, age 15, and a student at the school where Patricia works.  Up until recently Kent has been living in Colorado Springs with his mother, who is divorced from his father.  Kent is having some problems in school. 


At 34%, there's no romance between Patricia and Morgan.  Everything is about Kent, his relationship with his father (not very good), his problems in school (academic as well as social), and so on.  There's been much more emphasis on Morgan's sex life with Beverly and his business issues than any interaction between Morgan and Patricia.  They don't even seem to be aware of each other.


The book is well written, but not quite what I'd call polished.  It feels a little rough around the edges in terms of style.  Certain glimmers of brilliance shine through, however: the minor characters of Jerome, Patricia's fellow counselor, and Morgan's secretary are great.  I wish the characterizations of Morgan and Patricia were as wonderful.


Another strong point is the depiction of Kent's difficulties fitting into the urban school environment.  As the child of a white mother and black father, he has major issues, especially with his black schoolmates.  Author Kitt doesn't shy away from this, doesn't pretty-up the language or the rough reality.  I feel more attachment to Kent because I think of romance novels as dealing primarily with emotion, and so far, all the emotion in this book has been depicted through Kent: his loneliness, his bitterness, his anger, his pain.


The book is also almost 25 years old. 


It's not a bad book; it just lacks the passion I look for in a romance novel.

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text 2019-09-13 21:54
I'm feeling uncomfortable

My non-fiction reading is fairly broad, but when it comes to fiction -- and especially romance -- I've not been as diligent about diversity.


I'm therefore making a concerted effort to read more diverse romance stories.  I won't necessarily review them all, because I'm not sure I'm qualified to.  At least not yet.


The one I started a few nights ago is bothering me.  The writing is fine.  The author is prolific and has good reviews. 


I am just completely turned off by the male main character.  He's 17, walks around with a handful of condoms in his pocket, brags about how much he likes sex, refers to his teen-aged girlfriend as his "fuck buddy."  He sets his sexual sights on a 24-year-old woman.


For her part, she doesn't brush him off.  He's physically attractive, so she lets him proceed with his attempted conquest.


I'm not very far into the book but I'm already uncomfortable.  Not because she's older than he is, but because one of them is a minor and the other one doesn't seem to take that into consideration, and because one of them seems to see sexual partners as . . . disposable.


I'm not sure I can set this aside enough to continue reading.  Maybe this author can pull it off over the course of the story, or maybe I should try another of her books.  But this so far as given me a really negative feeling.



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text 2019-09-04 00:16
Halloween Bingo reject - DNF, no stars
Child of the Ghosts (Ghosts, #1) - Jonathan Moeller

Disclosure - I acquired the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon (2014).  I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with him regarding this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.


The Josh Olson Protocol rides again!


I intended to use this book for the "Ghost Stories" square, but after two pages I gave up.


The writing actually isn't too bad, at least in terms of sentence construction and syntax and so on.  But the formatting is block paragraphs, which I hate and which in my opinion immediately identifies the work as amateurishly self-published.  As soon as I see block paragraphs, I anticipate other errors.


Sure enough, there was a word missing on page one.


"But if you’re meeting with the decimvirs, that means you’re discussing criminal cases, which [you] don’t want to discuss in front of me.”

Moeller, Jonathan. Child of the Ghosts (p. 1). Azure Flame Media, LLC. Kindle Edition.


By page two there was another error, this one of words in switched places.


"I wish I had never borne you! I wish had I never met your father! Get out of my sight!"

Moeller, Jonathan. Child of the Ghosts (p. 2). Azure Flame Media, LLC. Kindle Edition.


Because the book is obviously fantasy, I discounted the misspelling of "decemvirs" as perhaps intentional, but the other errors were obviously not.


The book has received almost 400 reviews on Amazon, and over half of them are 5 stars.  The one- and two-star reviews cite the common occurrences of missing and misplaced words as a sign of poor editing.  Maybe the series (now 19 volumes?) gets better, but comments about how graphic the violence in this book is made me glad I decided not to read further.





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