Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, April 2012

In the real world, it’s mid May. Which means that Ebook Review Central is looking at the books published in April. This week, the spotlight is turned on Dreamspinner Press, and the titles that they published in April of 2012.

Before I start on the features, I want to talk about book covers for just a second. In spite of the warnings, we do judge a book by its cover. And using the same stock image multiple times can make readers wonder if they’ve read a book before, when they haven’t.

Dreamspinner uses the exact same cover image for their Day Dream series of, I think they would be classed as short stories. The ebooks are very short, and sell for a very low price. If they weren’t ebooks, they probably couldn’t be marketed except in anthologies. Ebooks have created an entirely new channel for short fiction that hasn’t existed since the golden age of magazines.  Using a stock image for the Day Dream series establishes a brand.

On the other hand, repeating a stock image for a novella or novel can give readers a feeling of deja vu. I thought the cover image on Murder at the Rocking R by Catt Ford looked awfully familiar to me. That’s because it’s the same image as the one on the cover on Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers, just reversed and further away. Although both Rocking R and On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch are westerns, Moonlight Gulch’s cover looks better because it’s more distinctive. Knowing that Rocking R is stock makes it lose something, at least for me.

But we’re here to talk about reviews.

Book number three this week is First Impressions by Christopher Koehler. They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Maybe that’s true, but in this romantic comedy, you can get a second chance at love, if your friends are willing to arrange a lot of painfully funny coincidences. Especially since your friends set you up in the first place and it all went so horribly wrong, when it should have been right. They have to make it better. At a very posh party, Cameron’s friends arrange for him to meet a new man. Unfortunately for him, they also help him dress. First part good, second part bad. They dress him like a bar pickup, and a sleazy one at that. Even worse, poor Henry, the man that Cameron is supposed to meet, is a former, emphasis on former, gay porn actor. Henry left that life behind him, and he wants to make sure it stays behind him. Cameron’s outfit is a reminder of lifestyle Henry left, and Henry spits insults instead of walking away. They trade barbed comments instead of the “meet cute” their friends had planned. The rest of the story is how they past that initial bad first impression, with a lot of help from their friends.

Next up, Frog by Mary Calmes. Frog is a story about city slickers playing cowboys for the weekend. Well, for a lot of weekends. And, it’s a about a lonesome cowboy. Really two lonesome cowboys, but one of them happens to be a city slicker. Brilliant surgeons are often cowboys back in their hospitals (House, anyone), and Cyrus Benning is the city slicker who finds perspective by pretending to be a real cowboy a few times a year. He also finds a real cowboy who, like the desperado in that old Eagles song, had better let somebody love him before it’s too late. Both Cyrus and Weber have been abandoned by fate, and they find what they need in each other.

Final book for Dreamspinner in April is the ebook release of a title that, when it was originally published just a few years ago, won several Rainbow Awards for Gay Fiction including Best Characters, Best Setting, Best Gay Historical and finally, Best Overall Gay Fiction. I’m talking about The Lonely War by Alan Chin.

This is a bittersweet story. It’s a historical story about a gay Asian-American seaman serving with the US Navy in World War II who falls in love with an officer aboard the ship on which he serves. Then his ship is captured by the Japanese and the entire crew become POWs. The final part of the book takes place after the war. No part of this book is an easy journey for the main character. I can’t do this book justice in a brief summary. Read the reviews, especially Leslie’s review at Speak Its Name, and you’ll understand why this book won all the awards.

And why one of the marvelous things about ebooks is the opportunity to bring books like this back and give them new and longer life and a wider audience.

That wraps up Ebook Review Central for this week. And after The Lonely War, a book about World War II, let’s talk about next Monday, Memorial Day in the United States. Although Memorial Day originally commemorated the fallen Union soldiers after the U.S. Civil War (I live in Atlanta now, I’m finding that very interesting) it has come to be a holiday to honor all those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

It also marks the beginning of summer. And it’s a three-day weekend. Ebook Review Central is going to take next Monday off. I need to get another sort of “leap day” in the calendar, and Memorial Day is a good enough reason.

Ebook Review Central will be back on June 4 with the Samhain April feature.


Covers, Stories, Teasers, Stars, Grades

What makes a book appealing to you? For that matter, what makes a book appealing to anyone? For her February 3 TGIF feature, GReads asked the question “When you’re browsing Goodreads, the library, or a blogger’s reviews, what grabs your attention to make you want to read it?”

For this blog, that’s a two-part question.

  1. What makes a book appealing to me?
  2. What makes a book ‘feature-worthy’ for the weekly Ebook Review Central?

If books were food, I would be making the old joke about being on the “seafood diet”. The joke was that I “see food and I eat it”. In the case of books, I see books and I want to read them. Not all books, but too awfully darn many.

We all judge books by their covers, but I use it to judge what category the book might be. I see gears and I think “steampunk, cool”, and that goes into the “maybe, yes” column. I see a man in a kilt and think “Highland Scots romance, probably not”.  I have, I will again, but unless they are either paranormal or time travel or something otherwise supernatural, except for Diana Gabaldon, I may be done there for a while.

Spaceships or computer chips means cyberpunk, space opera or science fiction romance; again, count me in. But cover art only suggests, it doesn’t guarantee.

I also go for authors I know or whose series I have started. I don’t read a lot of mysteries per se, but I read a lot of mystery series where I’m neck deep in the series, and I’m invested. Or is that committed?

I also like stories where the author has tried something new, so if the reviewer says they didn’t just love the story, but also that there is something new and interesting going on, I might try the book. Particularly if I trust the reviewer. There are some reviewers whose “mehs” mean more than other reviewers’ 5 star ratings. Everyone has their own style.

But when it comes to Ebook Review Central, I use an entirely different criteria for determining which books get featured. Every Monday ERC features up to three books from the publishing output for the publisher(s) and the month in question. On January 30, the publisher of the week was Samhain Publishing, the month was December 2011. On February 3, the last December 2011 issue will feature Amber Quill, Astraea Press, Liquid Silver Books and Riptide Publishing.

I do look for books where there were a lot of reviews. If a title gets 15 or more reviews, that’s one I’ll definitely feature. At that point, they don’t even all have to be good reviews, although it helps. If something is worth talking about that much, then it’s a title that other readers might want to take a look at. In romance, after all, love and hate are often opposite sides of the same coin.

I also look for the tone of the reviews. When the reviewers are doing more than just giving a story five stars and A+ ratings, when the collective reviewing landscaping is searching for words beyond “everyone must read this NOW!” that’s a sign the book is worth showcasing.

When it comes to the Ebook Review Central, it really doesn’t have anything to do with my reading tastes. I might have read some of the books listed for the week, and I might not. And even if I did, I might not have agreed with the other reviewers. The books that get featured depend on the collective blogosphere.

Of course, sometimes I’ll see how much other reviewers loved a certain book, and I’ll be intrigued. There are also times when I’ll see that no one is reviewing a particular author’s books, and I’ll wonder why no one cared enough about the book to post a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Which leads back to that question again.  What makes a book appealing to you?