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text 2018-02-01 21:11
Well, not all real people do
Like Real People Do - D. Heidi Barnes

Disclosure:  I downloaded the free sample of this Kindle book from Amazon.  I encountered the author in a Twitter thread but I do not know her nor have I ever communicated with her about this book or any other matter outside that Twitter exchange.  I am an author of historical romances and contemporary romantic suspense novels.


I have to say that the description of the book on Amazon wasn't exactly enticing.  I personally am turned off by misused semi-colons.



Putting aside the punctuation errors, I still wasn't enticed by this outline.  Guy who has everything except the woman of his dreams finally meets her but then might have to give up something to keep her.  Ooh, wow, isn't that a new, unique, never-before-used plot line!  Not.


And when this kind of ho-hum story comes from someone who has already voiced her disdain for the romance genre, well, my enthusiasm isn't exactly enhanced.


The book opens with a poem, which is fine.  It was kinda weird, and gave no real hint as to how it tied to the story, but again, that's fine.


The first chapter, however, utterly failed to pull me in.  By about the fourth or fifth sentence, I was already bored.


Now, let me back up a bit.  The cover was meh.  I can be grabbed by a super cover and ignore a whole lot of opening weaknesses if the cover gives me a fantastic sense that something fabulous is going to happen.  I'll wade through extra pages of blather just on the strength of a great cover.  This book didn't have a great cover to draw me in.


The description didn't hold much promise either, so the reading pump hasn't been primed.  I'm not excited about this book at that point.


The poem didn't do anything positive in terms of whetting my appetite for this book. It didn't promise any great drama or threat or adventure or passion that might have stirred my interest.  By the time I reached the first actual page of text, nothing had roped me in, but three things had kind of pushed me away.  That meant the opening was going to have to be pretty damn fantastic.


It wasn't.


The opening scene is of the hero, Chris, sitting in an airplane and waiting to take off. The two-page-long first paragraph is little more than an expansion of the listing description.  The oh woe is me, I have everything in life except the one thing I want, and I wish I had a drink.  All telling, no showing, and no drama or tension.  I think the first five sentences began with "He," so there wasn't even the distraction of great writing.


Very shortly thereafter, before the plane has even taken off, the heroine, who is seated next to Chris, touches his arm and asks if he's okay.  He pretty much falls in love with her right then.


Punctuation errors stopped me again.


"My name is Jenna, by the way. Jenna Lindsay," she extended her hand to shake his, but he took her hand and pressed his lips to it, never taking his eyes off hers.

Barnes, D. H. (2017-02-18T22:58:59). Like Real People Do (Kindle Locations 70-71). D H Barnes. Kindle Edition.


". . .[E]xtended her hand" isn't a speech tag.  There should be a period and closed quotation marks after "Lindsay," followed by a capital S for "She" at the beginning of the action sentence.  Does this matter?  It does to me.  If you're a reader who doesn't mind this sort of thing, that's fine.  For me, however, I'm now wondering just exactly how strong are the author's writing mechanics, because those are the tools she has to use to tell her story, to build drama and tension, to pull the reader into the world of the novel.


Again, it may not matter to you.


Several pages in the small talk begins, and I've lost interest. He's English; she's from North Dakota but headed to Houston.  She's a waitress.  Flying first class from London to Houston. Yeah, right.  My eyes are starting to roll.


Then the focus shifts to Chris's physical description, and my eyes are rolling even more.  He's on the short side, slim of build, with brown eyes and curly brown hair, and an under-sized penis.


Rationally, he was aware that his dick was probably about average in size, and all the better that he was slight of build, pornography was just too all pervasive these days. And he'd seen too many too much bigger. He also had a few experiences with women who had ridiculed him and it had become an insecurity that he just couldn't shake.

Barnes, D. H. (2017-02-18T22:58:59). Like Real People Do (Kindle Locations 114-117). D H Barnes. Kindle Edition.


Chapter Two opens with another two-page long paragraph of telling, not showing, and I gave up.  Life is too short.



P.S.  I have a few other suspicions about this book and author, but I'll save them for later.

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text 2018-01-27 19:50
Hoping to start a discussion: Correct me if I'm wrong. . . . . .

I'm back on the couch with the heating pad, having messed up my back again.  It's not nearly as bad this time as in the past, but I'm going to take it easy for at least a few hours.


Some comments on Twitter this morning got me to thinking about the whole issue of negative book reviews, and I'm not sure if I'm coming at this from the right direction.  I almost dismissed my concerns until I went back and reread Debbie's comment on my earlier review here.


She wrote:


Lots of publicity enterprises making money generating positive reviews that illegally (on U.S. sites) don't disclose were reviewing for the publicity firm, for the author, for the publisher or as an exchange of reviews between authors or group of authors (FTC considers that a service received, I.e., payment the same as a cash fee). Always suspicious when a flurry of 4-5 star reviews are around release dates, promotions, blog tours or other events (or release date of still yet another new edition.


Yes, there are bloggers and semi-professional (getting free books) reviewers who only post positive reviews.  We've been through this before.  There are also the genuine consumers who leave reviews, sometimes honest, sometimes dishonest but kind.  Authors, including Roger Hayden who wrote The Haunting of Saxton Mansion, often leave requests for reviews in the digital books themselves:


As an indie author, Amazon reviews can have a huge impact on my livelihood. So if you enjoyed the story please leave a review letting me and the rest of the digital world know. And if there was anything you found troubling, please email me. Your feedback helps improve my work, and allows me to continue writing stories that will promise to thrill and excite in the future. But be sure to exclude any spoilers.


I would love if you could take a second to leave a review: Click here to leave a review on Amazon!

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 8053-8059). Kindle Edition.


(I won't comment on the dangling modifier in the opening sentence of the above snippet.  Oh, I guess I just did.  My bad.)


Because of Amazon's policies regarding reviews by other authors -- which are actually in line with FTC restrictions, too -- some of the more knowledgeable people about the quality of the writing are not permitted to express their opinions when the quality falls short. Negative reviews all too often attract reprisals and/or retribution, and thus honesty is discouraged.  A culture has developed of "If you can't leave a positive review, don't leave any at all."


In some cases, it's justified/rationalized/excused by respect for the author's effort.  "Even a badly written book required the writer's time and effort.  I have to respect that."


My question, however, is this:  What obligation does any reader have to refrain from expressing a negative opinion?  And to whom is that obligation owed?


Years ago, I noticed what appeared to be a pattern of bad behavior by one of my son's teachers.  When I spoke to other parents, they agreed that her actions were problematic, but they weren't willing to make a formal complaint. They didn't want to rock the boat or risk retaliation against their children.  The teacher's behavior worsened, to the point that I finally took my concerns to the principal.  I presented evidence of the teacher's blatant favoritism and her constant belittling and harassment of the students who weren't her favorites.  The situation reached a crisis point with the principal (of a K-5 school!) calling me a lying bitch in front of a dozen students, and the teacher exploding in a temper tantrum at me in front of her entire class and most of the students' parents.  Only later did I get an acknowledgement from the principal that yes, I was right and the teacher had shown grossly unfair favoritism.  The problem was going to be addressed, but it was too late for too many students.


Is there some kind of equivalency between poor teaching techniques and poor writing?  Probably not.  So let me take it another notch higher.


Of the more than 150 young women who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, many reported his behavior over the decades of his abuse.  Decades.  Those young women, some of them really only girls, were either ignored, or not believed, or dismissed.  Many others didn't even know that what he was doing to them was wrong, because no one told them.  Many others said nothing because they knew they wouldn't be believed.  Some even kept silent because they thought they themselves were somehow to blame!  University officials knew, but for their own reasons they, too, chose silence.  The governing body of the gymnastics sport also maintained silence.  We don't yet know who else protected themselves and their own interests through silence, while hundreds of young people suffered.


Is there some kind of equivalency between sexual abuse of children and writing a lousy book?  No, of course not.  But is there some kind of equivalency between the silence with which many people treat the wrongdoing that they see in front of them?


Have we all developed a habit of self-preservation through silence?


"First they came for the _______________, but I said nothing because I was not a _______________."


When a book is badly written, when it has numerous typographical errors and misspellings and grammatical mistakes and factual inaccuracies, when it has gaping plot holes and character inconsistencies and logical impossibilities, what do we accomplish with our silence?  Have we given that author an "A for Effort" trophy without even knowing if she/he made a sincere effort rather than just slapping something together and putting a 99-cent price tag on it?  Are we just giving ourselves the protection of not having to say something bad about someone who has, essentially, done a bad thing?


If you've read through all this so far, I have something to add regarding the book that started it, The Haunting of Saxton Mansion as assembled in the collection Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset. 


I had no intention of reading any more of either Roger Hayden's contribution or any of the other three stories in the set, but I did want to see if Hayden had included a request for reviews at the end of his section.  As I skimmed through the Kindle pages, a few odd words caught my eye here and there, enough that curiosity prompted me to stop and read.


The Haunting of Saxton Mansion is composed of three "books."  As I posted in my review of Book 0, the setting of the mansion itself is not logical and there are errors of fact (the Dom Perignon stuff), along with a lot of generic writing flubs.


But Book 0 opens with Gerald Saxton arriving home; Book 1 opens similarly, but some of the details have changed!


Cypress Creek, Florida

December 22, 1982

The fireplace crackled, casting dancing shadows on the wall. The tree in the corner filled the living room with a scent of fresh pine. Lights of green, red, blue, and orange were wrapped from its top to the base, along with silver tinsel and ornaments hanging from the branches. Christmas music played lightly from the stereo. An open bottle of red wine rested atop the coffee table near the black leather sofa where Gerald Saxton and his wife, Annette, sat, glasses in hand.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 2291-2296). Kindle Edition.

Same date as Book 0, same location, same characters.  Okay, so the details regarding the Dom Perignon aren't there, and we've got a more generic red wine, but something didn't feel right as I skimmed across the Kindle pages.


Gerald had purchased their two-story three-bedroom, two-bath Victorian dream house from his father four years prior.


The gated property had a courtyard and fountain, a two-car garage, a large front deck, and even a tennis court. There wasn't a house quite like it for miles--and it was the only home on the narrow dead-end road known as Pennington Drive. Gerald and Annette loved their house and had spared no expense on renovations. The upkeep was, and would always be, a challenge, but that was to be expected with a house over twenty years old.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 2299-2303). Kindle Edition.

What the hell?  The details are different!  Now the house is over twenty years old, not twelve!  Is Book 1 a revision of Book 0, or what?


Out of a curiosity that was now spiked with anger, I skipped ahead to Book 2.


Cypress Creek, Florida

December 23, 1982


It was past midnight. The lights were on in the Saxton mansion, an isolated estate at the end of a dead-end street. Shadowed flames from the fireplace danced against the living room wall. Outside, a black BMW sat parked next to the courtyard fountain, where water calmly flowed. A tennis court lay on the left side of the house under heavy shadow, its iron fence barely visible. A two-car garage sat housed on the other side, connected to a long driveway that ran down through the gated entrance.

There was no home quite like the Saxton mansion in the entire neighborhood. Isolated as it was, few ever ventured down Pennington Drive to see it. That night, danger was brewing inside, though nothing looked unusual from outside the gate. It was just another quiet evening in the small town of Cypress Creek, where an evil had descended upon the Saxton family.

The mansion’s elaborate Victorian architectural style included a wood exterior, arched roofs on both sides, and a tiny attic window in the center. The front porch had Christmas lights running along the railing and up the tall white columns that reached to the ceiling. The expansive front yard seemed limitless in its space, while the surrounding forest provided a sense of privacy and tranquility, shielding the mansion from view of the nearby homes that made up the neighborhood. For this reason alone, its seclusion, no one was aware of what was happening until it was too late.

That evening, the Saxtons had received two unexpected visitors. Gerald and Annette Saxton were enjoying the evening together in the living room as their children slept upstairs.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 4679-4692). Kindle Edition.


How much of each "Book" is a reiteration of the others?  Is the opening just a summary of what happened in the previous books?  If so, then why are the details different?  How much is a recap, and how much is new material?  Does the reader need to buy/read Book 0 and Book 1, or is the whole story contained complete in Book 2?  I'm not inclined to read any further to find out.  How many of the "reviews" on Amazon of each book are just empty but positive blathering about a product?  I don't know.  (Book 2 has far fewer reviews, but it was only released earlier this month.)


As a writer who truly does put effort into each of my works, I'm appalled that reviewers hold back on bad books.  As a reader in search of good material, I'm frankly disgusted by those who spew out only positives for their own benefit and thereby prove their own indifference to their audience.


The gymnasts deserved a whole lot better.  Don't reviewers owe readers honesty, at a bare minimum?

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review 2018-01-26 16:19
I can't even - A Nit-Picky Review in Real Time
Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries - Roger Hayden

Disclosure:  I obtained this collection when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know any of the authors, nor have I ever had any communication with any of them about these books or any other matter.  I am an author of historical and contemporary romances, including gothic romances.


This is a collection of four separate novels by four authors.  When it showed up as a freebie in my email notices on 25 January 2018, I went ahead and downloaded it.  It is still free as of 26 January, if anyone is interested.


The first novel is The Haunting of Saxton Mansion. I had in fact "purchased" this as a freebie a few months ago, but hadn't read more than the first page or so.  Later, when checking the reviews on Amazon, I learned that this was one of those teaser books, where the first half is free, but the ending is in the second half that isn't free.  Since I hadn't been immediately captivated by the opening, I didn't go back to read any further.


I'm assuming, therefore, that the boxed set contains the whole thing.  The Table of Contents lists Book 0, Book 1, and Book 2.


The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 0

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 1

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 2

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 7-10). Kindle Edition.

I began reading Book 0, which is a very different opening from what I had read from the first freebie.  Whether it is a prequel or backstory, I don't know yet.  I may never find out, because I may not be able to force myself through it.


The scene is set as December 22, 1982, in Cypress Creek, Florida.


I don't mind a haunting from the recent past.  In fact, I find it intriguing, because it seems there has always been a preponderance of ghosts from past centuries when it's just as likely that unhappy, restless spirits might be active from more recent times.  So the near-contemporary timeframe didn't bother me.


The opening text is visual description of the scene.  Full moon, clouds, and so on.


Wispy clouds streaked the evening sky, illuminated by the glow of a full moon. Palm trees in a slumbering town swayed in the slight breeze. On the corner of a sparsely populated back street sat a grand, two-story Victorian home. An iron gate over six feet tall surrounded the premises.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 28-30). Kindle Edition.

Four sentences into the book and I stopped, dead.  Four sentences.


The clouds and the moon, okay.  Overview of the whole town, hm, okay.  Zoom into house on the corner, hmmmm, less okay but passable.


Iron gate surrounding the premises?  NO.


A fence surrounds a property, but a gate doesn't.


Disbelief is no longer suspended.


Freshly cut St. Augustine grass encompassed the massive front lawn where the old Saxton manor rested atop a small hill, shrouded by thick, looming tree branches in a neighboring forest.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 30-31). Kindle Edition. 

The grass doesn't "encompass" the lawn.  Lawns aren't usually described as "massive." How is there a small hill on a corner city lot?  If the forest is neighboring, how are its branches shrouding the house?


I'm barely onto Page 2, and my eyes are spinning in their sockets.


This is bad writing.  It's poor word choices mixed with bad cinematography.  And it doesn't stop.


Past the gated entrance was a long driveway that ran past the courtyard to the garage. The house itself had been constructed in 1970 and was one of the oldest homes in Cypress Creek. Its history was shrouded in secrecy.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 32-33). Kindle Edition.


What courtyard?  Does this author know what a courtyard is?  I have my doubts.


And, a house built in 1970 is not Victorian.  While it might be Victorian style, or Queen Anne Style, or whatever style that evokes the Victorian era, it's way too new to be true Victorian.


Maybe today's readers don't care.  Maybe they're so accustomed to inaccuracies and otherwise bad writing that they can't tell the difference.  Maybe they don't know the difference between a gate and a fence.  Maybe they think "Victorian" is a synonym for "big and looks old."  I don't know.  As we here on BookLikes learned from our buddy reads Ammie, Come Home and Jamaica Inn, even traditionally published books can be loaded with errors.


Is that an excuse for the kind of crap that shows up in books like The Haunting of Saxton Manor?  Because, hoo boy, it gets worse.


The action takes place a mere 12 years after the house was built, yet its history is "shrouded in secrecy."  Um, no.  The description of the setting is clichés upon clichés, but without substance.  This is bad writing.


A decorated Christmas tree shined through a front window with its colorful reds, blues, and greens. The Saxton family living inside had much to celebrate during the coming holidays, unaware that outside their home, someone was watching.


Gerald Saxton’s black BMW drove through the automatic gate and up the driveway. He parked near the courtyard and got out, carrying two full paper grocery bags in each arm. Dressed in his creased gray suit, he walked up the three concrete steps onto the front porch with its wooden railing and thin white columns that ran up to the roof.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 33-38). Kindle Edition.

The lights of the Christmas tree shone (not shined) through the window, not the tree itself.  And the family probably lived inside the house, not inside the tree.


Gerald drove the car; it didn't drive itself.  Why did he park "near the courtyard" and not in the garage?  Does the writer stop to think how impossible it would be to carry two full paper grocery bags in one arm and then grab two more with the other arm and then, with both arms full, open the car door and maneuver past the steering wheel to exit the vehicle? 


Why is his suit creased?  Does the author mean the suit is wrinkled, as though Gerald slept in it?  Or does the author mean the suit is neatly pressed, with sharp creases in the trousers?  Does the author know what words even mean?


Potted plants lined the top railing. A porch swing, held by chains from above, creaked with the wind. It was a cool sixty-eight degrees that evening, hardly winter, but quite normal for the south Florida neighborhood.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 38-40). Kindle Edition.


If the columns described in the previous paragraph rose all the way to the roof of the two-story home, it's unlikely the swing would have been on chains that long.  And the temperature would have been "quite normal" for all of south Florida that time of the year, not just the local neighborhood.  Though this lucky paragraph didn't have any major errors, it's still an example of what happens when a writer doesn't pay attention to details.


Fresh aqua paint covered the home’s wooden exterior; its steep roofline was a dark gray. Much of the house had undergone renovations some five years prior. The roof arched in the center, and there were two windows on the second floor that resembled eyes, with an even higher single attic window centered above. With its unique architecture, expansive courtyard, and adjacent tennis court, the Saxton estate was like no other home in Cypress Creek.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 40-43). Kindle Edition. 

The house is only twelve years old, yet it had undergone renovations at the age of seven?  Why?  And what does the author mean by "The roof arched in the center"?  And we still don't know about this "courtyard."


I'll give you a break, dear reader, and not quote every single line for a while.  Gerald enters the house and greets his wife, Annette, who is wearing a silk purple bathrobe.


Usage dictates that the bathrobe should be purple silk, not silk purple.


1  /   SIZE  :       How big ?         Large, small, tiny, enormous

2 /     AGE   :      How old ?           New, young, old, ancient

3 /    SHAPE :    What shape ?     Square, round, rectangular, flat

4 / COLOUR :    What colour ?      Blue, pink, yellow, crimson

5 /  ORIGIN :    Where from ?      English, American, Chinese,French

6 / MATERIAL: What it is made of ?    Plastic, cardboard, glass, wooden

7 / PURPOSE : What it  is used for ?    Racing car, frying pan, rocking chair 


Though we -- as both readers and writers -- don't normally think in terms of these rules for ordering adjectives, "silk purple" just doesn't read as comfortably on our mental ears as "purple silk."  Is it possible the author of this book is not well read?


At any rate, Gerald greets Annette and takes the groceries into the kitchen.


Gerald set the bags onto the kitchen counter and sighed. “Another long night at the office. What can I say?” He pulled a bottle of red wine from one the bags, proudly displaying the Dom Perignon label.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 54-56). Kindle Edition.






I can't leave a review on Amazon because I'm also a writer, and we're only allowed to write positive reviews, not negative or critical ones.


How many asinine mistakes is a reader supposed to put up with before DNFing and zero-starring a piece of garbage?  How many "mulligans" does a lazy, incompetent writer get?  This book (or at least the original first part of it) has 256 ratings on Amazon, with an average of 4.2 stars.  What the ever living fuck?



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text 2018-01-26 03:55
You get what you pay for
Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries - Roger Hayden

Kindle freebie today via Free Booksy.


Within the next few days I will have more of a review, but I am right now so angry I'm ready to scream.



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review 2017-12-20 16:11
Not my usual fare
The Butterflies - Kimberley Waldron

To tell the truth, I don't know why I downloaded this.  It was on Booksy's free list this morning.  Psychological thrillers aren't usually my cup of tea.


A 1994 Buick Regal with one broken headlight and a half-rusted chassis rocketed between the concrete barricades to the side entrance of Garrett County Hospital, slipped into a space near the door, and screeched to a halt.

Waldron, Kimberley. The Butterflies (p. 1). Vellichor Press. Kindle Edition.



Let's start with that publisher.  Vellichor Press has no website, no internet presence.  That tends to diminish credibility.


This opening sentence is all screwy.  First of all, the chassis is the frame, the underlying structure, not the body.  It's unlikely, therefore, that an ordinary observer would be able to tell if that part of the vehicle was half-rusted.  So here I am with not even a full sentence read and I'm questioning the writer's ability to use the right words.


Before the end of that sentence, this vehicle rockets (fast) between concrete barricades, slips (slower) into a parking space, then screeches (fast) to a stop.  Nope, it doesn't make sense.  Where are the barricades relative to the door? Does the vehicle have to turn at all?


I'm tired of bad writing.  When the very first sentence is fucked up, why should I read any further?

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