Friday, October 1, 2010

The End

A month and a half since I've posted anything. Sad, yeah? There is a pretty good reason behind it though. I haven't been reading.

Now, I don't mean what most people would mean by that. I just mean that in the past six weeks I probably haven't read more than six books rather than the 30-45 I normally would have read.

Now you may or may not be interested in why but since this is my little narcissistic playground, I'm going to tell you anyway. In one word. Romance. I am sick to fucking death of it.

When I started reading UF around 80-90% of the titles I could find completely lacked romance as a primary plot point. I loved the genre and even branched out into some paranormal romance just so I could have more books of a similar genre to read. I went on like that downing 200-400 books a year exclusively in those two genres.

It was great. If I was feeling my inner surly bastard, I could pick up a UF title and be assured I wouldn't have a romance novel with vampires. If I was feeling all hugs and puppies, I could grab a PR and rest comfortably secure in the knowledge that everything would work out fine for the MCs. You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true though...

Fast forward nine years (for those keeping track, that's about 3,000 books later). Today, try picking up a UF book without caricaturized, chick-lit-style romance either leading as the main plot point or tied for it. I guarantee a random selection will have you throwing 80-90% of what you pick up back on the shelves.

Yeah, sure, I could wade through all the chaff to find those 10-20% that don't. I could keep up with all the review sites and only pick up the ones that don't sound like a soap opera producer wrote them on Halloween. Thing is, I'm just not willing to. Every time I see another bad PR novel being marketed as UF it makes me want to teach someone the secret neck shake and I don't enjoy being pissed off all the time.

So, with a hearty Fuck Off and Die to the shitheads in marketing, this is it. Unless the author's awesomeness has cemented them a place on my must read list (about 30 authors worth), I won't be buying any new UF books. And since I won't have UF to balance out PR anymore, I won't be buying any of them either.

No point in keeping up a site with maybe one review a month, so adios.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Monday, August 16, 2010

A terrible month for books

It has been a truly shitty month for books for me.  No, I'm not talking about the official release timeline.  I'm talking about my personal reading timeline.  It feels like every book I've been looking forward to reading is determined to deliberately suck at me personally.

The first two culprits that spring to mind are Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane and Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill.  If you haven't read either of these, you should probably stop reading now because there will be spoilers of some degree farther on.  You have been warned.

Oh, a bit more before I get into it.  I'm perfectly aware that the target audience of these books is pretty much entirely female.  At least I hope it is, otherwise someone fucked up fairly epically.  Also, if you have an inability to tell the difference between an opinion and a fact, please don't bother arguing in comments;  I will most assuredly make you look like a retard if you do.

I'd been really psyched to read Unholy Magic since I finished and gave a glowing review to Unholy Ghosts.  Having a book suck when you expected awesomeness is far more disappointing than one you expected to suck from the beginning.  Therein lies the source of piss-offitude I have for Unholy Magic.

Unholy Ghosts: Female MC, not a chick book1.  Unholy Magic goes entirely the other direction and brings the Lex, Chess, Terrible triangle up as part of the primary plot.  Seriously?  If I wanted primary plot romance I'd be reading something with models in suggestive poses on the cover for fuck's sake.  You were supposed to give me Urban Fantasy, Stacia, not goddamn Paranormal Romance2.

Add to that Chess's seemingly complete inability in Unholy Magic to make a fucking decision and accept the consequences of it.  I'm specifically referring to her inability to decide if she wants to be with Terrible or Lex in the first place and her fucking around about telling Terrible important shit he would have needed to know if they were even going to just remain friends.  If your female MC appears to have been written by by Melvin Udal3, men4 will fucking hate reading her.

Twice Bitten I've read about halfway through and been stuck immediately after Ethan decides he can't have any romantic involvement with Merit because his protectiveness towards her could interfere with what's good for his House.  Epic alpha male character writing fail.  A man5 would have been quiet on the ride back and thought something like this:

Ethan's Brain:  This shit is going to be a problem.
Ethan's Brain:  OK, so which do I care about more?  My duty to the House or Merit?
Ethan's Brain:  The House, obviously.  I'm a guy who puts more importance on duty than personal feelings.
Ethan's Brain:  Right then, you fucked up.  Don't let it happen again.

He would then have told her that the House will always come first to him and he's sorry if she thinks that it makes him a rat bastard but he hopes she still wants to be with him.  Personal responsibility for your words and actions, it's a big thing with men.  Blaming her as the cause of his fuck-up and ending the relationship rather than owning up to his failure is the fundamental opposite of what a man would do.

I might get past that alone but there's also the bit with the RG in the first chapter.  The world hates those who betray a trust6 more than anything else and she most definitely would be betraying the trust of her House if she joined the RG without leaving it first.  That Merit even considers it lost her any respect I had for her.  Permanent disgust.  Full stop.  End of discussion.

So anyway, that's why I'm having a hell of a time finding the desire to read this month.  Hope you all are having a better time of it.

~The Mighty Buzzard

1  For now defined as being chock full of romantic drama that the story suffers for.
2  No, the difference between the two is not the guarantee of a HEA.  The difference is Urban Fantasy has no requirement of any romance at all and never has romance as the primary focus of the MC.  If the romance is more important than the rest of what's going on to the MC, you wrote some sort of romance novel rather than UF.
3  "I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability."
4  Yes, I'm aware some people in possession of a penis are indecisive too.  They may be male humans but they are not men.
5  Again, man not male human.
6  Traitors of course but also date rapists, child molesters, adulterers, Enron, politicians, and so on.  The commonality being they all betrayed the trust that was either implicitly or explicitly given them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Romance for @alebodden11

@alebodden11 @TMBuzzard I do have one question though- What are YOUR thoughts on Romantic comedies or books?

@TMBuzzard @alebodden11 I've currently no use for them unless the rest of the story is good enough to be awesome by itself.

@alebodden11 @TMBuzzard Can I ask why?

What it all boils down to is men pretty much just do not care about romance.

Chick who doesn't get it: You're full of shit. Some men are really romantic!

Some men are plumbers too.  That doesn't mean they go around giving a damn about whether your toilet is clogged or not aside from that you'll pay to have it unclogged.

The same goes for romance in our actual lives.  If we're doing something romantic it's because we care about either the woman we're being romantic to or about her getting naked in the near future.  Yeah, OK, or both.  The romance itself we couldn't really give less of a shit about if we tried.  It's strictly a case of doing something to illicit a response in her.

It's probably at least partially cultural.  Men aren't generally raised to look outside themselves for the validation of our worth that romance provides.  Barring an abnormally low self-esteem, we default to thinking we rock.  Witness our non-use of makeup1 and amazingly less volatile fashion industry2.  We never look at another man and hate him because he's better looking than us.  If you see a guy worried over his appearance to the point that he uses makeup3 or worries about fashion beyond not looking like a retard who dresses in the dark, you can bet the farm that he has severe self-esteem issues.

Back from that slight tangent, this leaves us with an entire gender that aren't junkies to this particular set of emotions.  The chemicals our brain gets flooded with during romance are somewhat pleasant but they don't feed a deep emotional need in us.  We're in a position where not just any romance will do to make us appreciate it;  it must be well written.  Consequently, we require stories (be they books, movies, or television) give us either a story that is good without the included romance or one that is passable with a very well written romantic sub-plot.  Romance as a primary plot line is a non-starter for us unless the writing is absolutely epic.  Probably not even then since I, at least, don't tend to go around believing marketing hype that something is epic and wouldn't even start consuming the media to begin with.

Also, romance novels in particular tend to either be written from either an exaggerated female perspective or a horribly, amazingly, astoundingly wrong male perspective.  This makes it damned hard to work up the necessary empathy with the main character to enjoy the book.  Believable male secondary characters can make the difference between an enjoyable female MC book and a "Why the fuck did I spend money on this" experience but they're just as rare.  I won't go into what makes a male character believable in this post, it's entirely long enough already.

Hope that helps.

~The Mighty Buzzard

1  KISS aside.  The music industry is highly competitive.
2  The tuxedo hasn't changed much in centuries.
3  Yes, I'm looking at you, goth and emo kids.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen and constantly attack the living. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch and freewheeling Debunker and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing the human liars or banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water.

Chess owes a murderous drug lord named Bump a lot of money. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust with a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

It took me a while to get started on this particular book. Generally I'm not in the mood for post-apocalyptic settings in my reading even though I dig the hell out of them in movies. So, in the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie, I waited for it to come around again on the guitar. Once I did get started though it was a cover to cover session.

In a genre that's strayed amazingly far from its gritty, urban roots that attracted so many of us to it in the first place, this book is a dirty, greasy shadow of hope. There are no uber-sexy vampires, it's not a love story, and the main character is neither average Jane normal nor any sort of heroin. Life for Chess is ugly, painful, not guaranteed to work out well, and gives us a story that is everything an Urban Fantasy story should be. Almost. But let's give the rating before we get into that.

Rating: Awesome

By almost, I mostly mean there are two key things that I would have liked to have seen done differently or in more depth. If they had been, this book would have gotten a Fucking Awesome rating instead of just Awesome.

First up is the environment of Triumph-City. In Urban Fantasy the city is as important as the main character because it sets the background for nearly every scene in the story. One of the perils of making up your own city to base your stories in is you don't have the casual familiarity your readers have with say Chicago or New York. This means if you want your reader to be able see the used needles in the gutter and smell the bum in the doorway, you have a lot of extra work drawing them a mental picture. Unholy Ghosts didn't quite manage it for me but it is the first book in a series, so hopefully it will get fleshed out eventually.

Then we have the main character, Chess. I absolutely love that the author had enough guts to write an MC with a flaw as deep as drug addiction. Unfortunately, I didn't get the depth of despair or desperate urgency for escape that I'd hoped to see in such a wonderfully flawed character. I've got plenty of personal experience with this and I just didn't feel it quite ring true with Chess. Again though, not a flaw that can't be remedied in the coming books.

In closing, I guess what I'm trying to say is if shiny, happy vampires holding hands isn't what you read Urban Fantasy for, you will fucking love this book. Yeah, there's room for improvement but it's easily the second best book in the genre released this year. Changes by Jim Butcher of course being the best because Jim did the whole crossroads, sell your soul thing to write as well as he does.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bullet by Laruell K Hamilton

Where to begin... Guess I could start with the rating. Fucking Awful. I want my damned money and the time I spent reading this flaming hunk of crap back. I'm fairly sure even those who pirated Bullet want a refund after reading it. Honestly, they deserve one.

This will be the last time I review a LKH book. I really don't think I could stomach another. Once upon a time, she used to write books that a nicely convoluted plot, plenty of action, characters and a world that had depth, grew, and held your interest. In Bullet, you get none of the above. Most of the unapologetic porn that I've read was better written.

Ah, fuck it. This complete waste of paper doesn't even deserve the words it would take to tell you all why it was so pathetically terrible. The only thing I have left to say on it is that her editor needs to either be given the authority to tell her she's writing complete shit and to fix it or needs to be fired for not doing his or her job at all. Anything as bad as Bullet shouldn't have made it to print no matter how much clout the author has with her publisher.

You owe me $38 for Flirt and Bullet, Hamilton, and you're getting off easy in that I'm not asking for pain and suffering money too.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry (Take Two)

In case you missed it, the Pixie and I have a bet going over this book. Since I finished it yesterday and still don't dig on it, she lost. Beyond disliking it overall though, there are the details of what I thought was good and what I couldn't stand. For this book they're a very strange collection. How about a brief summary before that though. See my previous post if you need a hand remembering how I rate things.

Writing: Pretty Damned Good
Story: Well Worth Reading
Characters: Fucking Awful

Now given that short list, Mark (and anyone who understands people and has read the book) will immediately know precisely why HHotD was not my cup of tea. The main reason being that it was not remotely written with people like me in mind. I do recognize, however, that there are people out there who will think it's a really great book. The problem is, I wouldn't get along at all well with the vast majority of them because of what enjoying it says about them. Certainly not well enough to recommend books to them in any case.

I'll be lazy and go in the same order as my list. The writing, in both technical and aesthetic aspects, was well above average for what I'd expect from a first time author. Cheers on that, Mark. He has a keen eye for detail but doesn't bog you down so that you get bored or lose track of where you were, like Tolkien books do for instance. The chapters only run about twelve pages, so it's easy to put down if you're not a marathon reader. The flow from one chapter to the next is clean enough though that going cover to cover won't be a problem if you're otherwise enjoying the book. My only beefs with the writing are too many flashbacks and a flashback within a flashback.

The story itself was about, to slightly above, what I've come to expect from the first book of a series. That it was also Mark's first published book makes it surprisingly good on this front. That said, it is the first book of a series and doesn't have a lot of background to draw on, so don't expect spectacular. It's solid and won't leave you disappointed, if you're the type inclined to enjoy this book, but it won't leave you wowed either.

The characters are what killed this book for me. To paraphrase, for decency's sake, my friend who I had read the first chapter so he would understand what I was ranting about: vapid bitches. At about the third chapter it was driving me crazy that the group of protagonists were apparently completely devoid of a single redeeming characteristic of any kind. At around the fourth I started paying close attention for absolutely anything that I could classify as a character trait in any of the three that I could find an iota of empathy towards. The closest thing I found was their concern for their missing friend Liesl but even that was apparently only important enough to think about after they'd donned some of the latest designer outfits and had a few drinks in the happening spot while heaping scorn, derision, and general bitchiness on anyone within sight. I've known child molesters with more worthwhile characteristics than these characters. I can literally manage more empathy with the guards at Auschwitz than I can with Amanda, Gil, and Wendy.

Now the Pixie says it might be a "love to hate them" sort of thing. Good on you if you can manage that. Me, I'm a more typical male type and prefer to either ignore or smash, kill, destroy something that I hate. I don't on any level enjoy being pissed off or disgusted with someone. If I did, I'd still be blogging about politics. No, Nat, I will not bet you even head to donuts that I can finish the second and/or third books but feel free to enjoy them yourself.

~The Mighty buzzard

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense

In an astoundingly uncommon display of good judgement, Marvel Studios has called Joss Whedon in from the bullpen to direct the upcoming Avengers Movie. I have no idea how they managed to come up with the idea to pick a director that actually knew the material for a comic book movie, maybe they asked a ten year old boy.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Family, alcohol, and twitter

What do they all have in common? They're all major impediments to getting any actual work done. Hell, they had me so turned around this past week and change that I didn't even remember to drop a link here to my guest post over at Kindle Vixen's site. I know, sad, right?

Anyway, I've still got to get a review for Julie Kenner's Demon Ex Machina out of my head and then there's Jim Butcher's Changes coming out Tuesday. I should have the former done tonight or early morning and expect a Changes review Wednesday or late Tuesday.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry

None of the following is hyperbole or exaggeration in any way whatsoever.

UPDATE: The Pixie and I got our competitive on while filling the hell out of the comments section of her latest entry and I'll be giving this book another go (starting at chapter three as per the recommendation of Mark himself) after I've had a bit of time to decompress and read Changes when it comes out on the ninth. Normally I'd start back up tomorrow or the next day but I won't risk being on the injured list and not being able to read the latest Jim Butcher the day it comes out.

Natasha over at recommended this book to me several times, so I finally went out and picked up a copy. For that I have to say this: what did I ever do to her to deserve that? This thing is kryptonite for straight males.

Not that I'm saying it's a bad book... I have no freaking clue if it's good, bad, or indifferent. My brain refuses to let me examine it beyond telling me it's Sex and the City with monsters. Two pages in I was ready to DNF it. I'd started having to reread each sentence at least twice, usually three to five times, to even get the words to stick in my brain long enough for the next sentence to have any context. I think it was refusing to process them out of self defense.

So far, I've managed to make it 2.1 chapters (24 pages) in. In over 24 hours. And it's taken me two shots of whiskey, four beers, and a John Wayne movie so far to even partially recover from the mental trauma. It's going to be at least another day or two before I'm able to pick any book up.

Just in case we're not clear on how badly trying to read this book hurts, here are a few things I would, with absolute seriousness, currently rather do than finish the third chapter.

  • Go to the store for tampons.
  • While at the store, have a long and involved conversation with a salesperson debating one brand of tampon vs. another.
  • Swear off Internet porn for a month.
  • Spend half an hour getting waterboarded.
  • Change all the dirty diapers at a daycare center for a day.
  • Have one of my fingers, toes, or nose broken.
  • Get kicked in the family jewels.

As of a little bit ago, I sent my copy over to a friend's wife, who's known me for quite a while now and knows my tastes in books pretty well, to read and let me know if there's any way in hell I'll ever be able to get into it enough to finish reading it. We'll see how that turns out.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Holy Tap-Dancing Fuck

Every now and then there comes along something that is either going to be a work of genius or pure shit. I think I just found one such book. Sarah Palin: Vampire Hunter by Dan McGirt. It's even a freebie over on his website. I seriously wish I hadn't agreed to start right in on Happy Hour of the Damned tomorrow now. Guess I can wait another day though.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Crazy-Assed Rating System

My rating system is confusing, even to me. So far it's been simply the word or phrase I'd use in describing the book/series to a friend but that doesn't really tell you all that much if you haven't known me for quite a while. In the interest of clarity, I'll codify it here publicly, equate it to a five star rating system, and stick to the ratings I set down for future books.

  • Rating: Fucking Awful(0 stars)
  • Rating: Awful(0.5 stars)
  • Rating: Really Fucking Bad(1 star)
  • Rating: Pretty Damned Bad(1.5 stars)
  • Rating: Barely Worth Reading(2 stars)
  • Rating: Worth Reading(2.5 stars)
  • Rating: Well Worth Reading(3 stars)
  • Rating: Pretty Damned Good(3.5 stars)
  • Rating: Really Fucking Good(4 stars)
  • Rating: Awesome(4.5 stars)
  • Rating: Fucking Awesome(5 stars)
  • Rating: Jim Butcher(∞ stars)

If I talk about tiers, they go like this... Awesome to Jim Butcher = top tier/tier one. Buy them in hardcover because you'll wear out a paperback. Pretty Damned good to Really Fucking Good = second tier. Buy them, format according to what you can afford at the time. Worth Reading to Well Worth Reading = third tier. Buy them if you're out of tier one and two books you haven't read, probably paperback unless you just have a hardcover fetish. Barely Worth Reading = fourth tier. Skip these unless you're really hard up for something to read and even then go paperback so as to encourage the writer to do better next time. Really Fucking Bad to Pretty Damned Bad = fifth tier. Don't buy these. You might try reading them if you get them as a gift but don't expect to be able to finish them. Fucking Awful to Awful = don't even get a tier. They're either complete shit or terrible work by an author you expect top tier or second tier work from. Don't read them unless forced at gunpoint. Even then, the bullet might be kinder.

Hope that clears things up.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs by Gerry Bartlett

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs, book 5 in the Real Vampires series, sends Glory St. Clair to Hollywood for the Grammy awards show with rock star Israel Caine. Here's her chance to walk the red carpet and be on national TV. When she meets a vamp diet guru who promises he can help her finally shed those extra pounds she's been carrying for over four hundred years, she's all for it. But he's longtime lover Jeremy Blade's ancient enemy. Could this guy have a hidden agenda? And can vamps really lose their curves? When the diet drugs begin having strange side effects a vamp war threatens to break out. Just what or who is Glory willing to sacrifice for her dream of being thin?

Something I always look for in a book, though I'm more lenient with PR titles, is a plot that could stand on it's own if all aspects of romance were removed. Not that I dislike romance in a book, I simply don't give it enough import that it can make a bad book good to me. If all I'm after is book-sex, I'll go reread Summer Camp or find something on ASSTR.

Which is one of the many reasons I consistently love Gerry Bartlett's Real Vampires books. Any of her plots, characters, or humor could carry a book enough to make it easily readable. Putting them all together makes for something seriously special and earns her a place in the top tier of my mental ratings.

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs is everything I've come to expect from the series. It's one of the few books this year I've been disappointed in not because it was bad but because I ran out of book at the back cover. I have nothing bad to say about this book and if I start saying more descriptively good things I'm likely to devolve fully into fanboi-ism, so I'll break off here.

Except... I know very little about women's fashion but will fifteen pounds really get you six sizes in women's clothing? I gain and lose that much pretty much every year and only move up or down one pants size.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Accidentally Demonic by Dakota Cassidy

When mild-mannered Casey Schwartz wakes up in jail with no memory of how she got there she realizes two things: something weird is going on and orange is definitely not her color. After her sister bails her out, Casey has more to deal with than a foggy memory—like abrupt mood swings and fireballs shooting from her fingertips. But things really go south when a vampire shows up on her doorstep...

Clayton Gunnersson is seriously hot. And seriously taken—by a demon. In a ritual gone wrong, Clayton tried to free himself from his unwanted bond, but spilled some demonic blood on Casey. So now, Clayton’s spurned mate is inside of Casey—and she’s not happy about it. Neither is Casey, who can’t escape this bizarre love triangle. It’s hard enough being possessed by a demon. Falling for that demon’s boyfriend could get Casey killed—from the inside out…

This fourth entry into Dakota Cassidy's Accidental Romance series. It was good enough that I read it in one night, like I usually try to, but I couldn't honestly go as far as saying it was as good as her previous three books in the series. The first three I dug because they were silly almost, but not quite, to the point of absurdity, funny, witty, had the requisite amount of ass-kicking, and because I would like to do very naughty things with Nina.

All of the above still apply to Accidentally Demonic but in a slightly muted way. Only really enough that if you were already a fan, you'll notice and possibly be a tiny bit disappointed.

The thing that really necessitates a drop in my mental rating though was the shotgun approach to pop-culture references in this installment. They felt like she'd gone back through on and decided she didn't have enough, so she slapped a few more in randomly and without regard to what character was using them. They felt forced and having every character use them took away some of the uniqueness in every character they got foisted off onto*.

Bottom line, whatever rating out of five you gave The Accidental Werewolf, Accidentally Dead, and The Accidental Human, subtract 0.5 from it and that's what I give it. That works out to a 3.5 for me, I suppose. But what do I know, you may have loved the first three enough to rate them a full 5.0, in which case call this one a 4.5.

~The Mighty Buzzard

* Yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition. The English language is my bitch and I treat it as such. If it really bothers you though, feel free to mentally insert a comma, a space, and the word asshole after the preposition.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

I normally don't do these things on the grounds of them being quite silly but, since I haven't gotten around to filling my About Page, I'll make an exception tonight.

7 things about me:

  1. I dig punk over metal because I prefer manic violence over rage violence. Most anything with a pit at the concert is fine by me though. Which band is my favorite depends entirely on what day you ask me. Today, it's NOFX.
  2. I prefer a good villain over a good hero in my fiction. They have greater depth of character and I lack any empathy whatsoever with someone agonizing over the decisions they've made.
  3. I've done more jobs than I can count but my favorite, by far, was soldier.
  4. I bottle fed a baby squirrel today.
  5. I'm 34 years old, 5'6", weigh 170-180, usually clean shaven on the face, and normally have the sides and back of my head shaved as well.
  6. I have two closed up piercings from my teenage years and three tattoos (left pec, left forearm, left hand).
  7. I have an uncanny weakness for women with unnaturally colored hair.

This is the part where I'm supposed to tag this off to ten other folks but it's not going to happen. I'm evil and enjoy breaking chains.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why so quiet?

I know it's been a few days since I've posted anything here, so here's a short update. The database for the mockup site is complete enough that I'm working on cgi script and web page for book entry. Once that's done and I create a register/login page/script I'll be able to start filling the database whithout having to do it from a mysql prompt. After that, I'll work on the search page/script so I can see the stuff I've entered.

For that matter you all will be able to also. Use all the pages that is. My DSL connection and personal webserver may not be up to hosting the actual finished site but it can most likely stand a few thousand users per day at least. If it does end up taxing my connection or computer too bad, I'll get it hosted by ones that won't sweat it.

~The Mighty Buzzard

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Holy Grail of Book Sites (Part Three)

Over the past three entries, we've gone over the Who, some of the Why, and described the Search end of things. Today we're going to start with the main page and see where that leads.

The things you really want on the main page are things that don't fit into the search category and shortcuts to complicated searches that the average user might not figure out themselves1. Those take up very little actual space though. In a two column blog format like I use, it would leave the larger content column completely empty. Let's start there.

Remember that the primary function of this site is to help users find the books they already want and find new, similar books that they've never heard of. Or to put it another way, to give users the as-precisely-as-possibe targeted advertising that they've come looking for. Since searches take care of that pretty well already, let's use the big honking wads of empty space to advertise books based on something other than the users' known desires. We still don't want to annoy them with flashy advertising or distract them from what they've already come looking for though, so let's keep the ads limited to something they might find interesting on a trivial level and might want to see anyway after a few separate visits to the site.

For that, we're going to take a lesson from the competition. Specifically, from the Most Popular and Most Recent lists on bittorrent sites. Split the main content column in half. On the left side put top ten2 lists. Have them not be all-time top ten lists but the list for the week or month; I haven't decided but we're arbitrarily going with week for this article. Have them separated by high-level genre3. Have the genres ordered by popularity on the site, descending. In each genre, list and link the top ten most popular titles for the past week, as defined by popularity on this site.

On the right hand side, using the same genres and same order, list the ten most recent releases in the genre. Make them ISBN specific so you can get plugs for paperbacks as well as the hardcover and ebooks that released earlier4.

Common to both columns, the entries should be one line of text with alternating, slightly different colored without being jarring, background colors. They should include only the book title and the author's name. The book title should be hotlinked, the author's name should not. Too many links side-by-side is hard on the eyes. The title of each genre list should link to a predefined search for the most popular or most recent of that genre, displayed in descending order.

Back to the rest of the page. We're going to stick to de facto web standards here. People are familiar with them and we've no interest in making things difficult for them.

At the top, put a bar that includes links to log in/out, account control, a link to the main page, and possibly a help section. Also a search entry field, a submit button, and an advanced search link. There might be other useful things that could be put up there, but I can't think of them off the top of my head, so they're for another day. This bar should persist across all pages.

Along the left side, we'll put a link to a News page, a Browse link, a link to a New Authors page, and a link to an Upcoming Releases page. We might also go with a Recently Added to the Catalog link, for when we add a new publisher or more books from a publisher we already had on board.

That's enough for today, I think. The rest of the pages should be easier to write but don't expect them on a daily basis. I started figuring out the database structure for a functional mock up site and getting it created last night and, frankly, I much prefer getting my hands dirty with some code than talking about it.

~The Mighty Buzzard

1 Apparently, according to the sketch I did last week, you also need Photon Torpedoes. I am apparently not the only wise-ass in my family.
2 It doesn't have to be ten, I'm just arbitrary-numbering it so we can move along.
3 i.e. something along the lines of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance, Horror, Mystery, etc...
4 Growl, snarl. I'm fairly sure that in our instant gratification culture, release windows promote piracy better than anything else. But anyway...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

I've been trying to work up a good review of this book since it came out but until today I couldn't find enough words to justify posting them. The short version is Black Magic Sanction is precisely what I've come to expect from a Kim Harrison(a.k.a. Dawn Cook), Hollows book and I dug the complete hell out of it. It's always hard for me to describe something that wasn't surprising but since none of you knew what I expected, I'll go through the list and call it an entry.

I always assume a new Hollows novel will have outstanding character development, though not necessarily equally to all characters of course. I wasn't let down this time. Pierce, Nick, Jenks, and of course Rachel were all heavily developed. Ivy, Trent, and the rest were also clarified but to a lesser degree. Algaliarept got more development and play than I expected but not as much as I'd hoped.

I expect a certain amount of gratuitous violence, plenty of witty dialog, some sort of romance angle, and each book to be, at least to some degree, better written than the last. Expectations filled on all counts.

I also expect a far from trivial but not overly convoluted plot and I expect this to make the book last longer than I expect. In a yay-it's-not-over-yet way, mind you. I have no idea how I can expect that she'll always have two or three more plot twists than I expect. I have no idea how that even makes sense but I've learned not to argue with my brain unless I know I can win.

Lastly, I expect that a couple things that Rachel does in every book will leave me absolutely dumbfounded. Even being able to read every thought she's had along the way to understand her motivation, they still make absolutely no sense to me. I chalk this up to the whole Mars/Venus thing1 though and go on my merry way.

~The Mighty Buzzard

1 I reserve the right to occasionally think that women are insane. I acknowledge that by reserving this right I give up the right to be offended that women occasionally think men, and the subset of men that is me, are slow, dense, unobservant, insensitive, clueless, downright stupid, or synonym of your choice. I think it's a fair trade.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fifteen minutes

Normally after getting a generous plug from someone I'd feel obliged to do a solid entry for the day. The Wicked Little Pixie decided to pick the day my brother rolled into town for a visit with many, many bottles of good beer to famous me up though. Since I prefer, after a few instances of giving myself a really good reason why, not to drink and blog though, I'll just leave something for her and get my entry on the main page of my theoretical site or possibly a review of the latest Kim Harrison book put up tomorrow.