Friday, 9 November 2012

Review for "Curse of the Ice Dragon" by Tara West

Story Overview:

Marcus is a born into a family that each one of the male members seems to be cursed. His father has a curse upon his normally kind heart, his brother is cursed with a constant ailment and he is cursed with the hunter’s curse. Should he kill an animal for fun or cruelly, the Ice Goddess will send her dragon to kill him and for every creature he kills a member close to him will die. The only way to stop the curse is to travel up the Ice Mountain and plead with the Goddess herself.
Cover Page:  18/20

The book seems aimed at the YA market and the cover certainly portrays that. Personally I couldn’t judge whether or not the cover would appeal to a younger market. So I turned to my son, asked him what he thought of the front cover and I have never seen his eyes light up so much for a book. So why has it lost two marks? Because I think it undersells the value of the book and some of the characters.

Characters (and their development):  19/20

The characters are completely fresh. Marcus is an excellent character who you can both sympathize with and also hate at times. He is a deeply flawed character who comes through his adventure a better person, but it certainly is not an easy ride. I think at the beginning of the book as a reader I did want to hate the character, yet there was something endearing about him. As the story moves on he just warms more and more into your heart. Other characters are brilliant portrayed, including those of the brother Alec and Dianna.

Even the father is so brilliantly portrayed. At the start of the novel you can’t but hate him. But as I read the story I actually felt sorry for him and wanting to direct my feelings towards those that caused his anger.

The one person I think that could have had a little more development was the mother of the boys. I was sad to see that her emotion and character is overshadowed by so many other characters. It would have been interesting to see more from her considering the rather sensitive nature of her position.

Storyline:  19/20

The storyline is fresh and unique. At the beginning of the book you have a rich background with an established story which to be honest would be well than enough to pass as an okay novel. Then the writer twists the strings in the story and what comes out of it is something that has suspense, adventure and more twists and turns than a roller-coaster. I have to admit there were a lot of shocking twists which I did not expect and when I thought I had everything sorted out there was another twist. The novel has turned into something that is superb.

When reading this to my son, he found that the story was very engaging. He loved some of the action sequences so much that he attempted to recreate them. And I think if you can get a child to remember and then re-enact scenes you certainly have a good story.

Style:  17/20

The style is something that does well, but is not particularly special in any way that distances it from other novels. Although there are plenty of surprising twists and turns I would say that the rest the book’s style is the same as other novels in the genre.

Spelling and Grammar:  20/20

The writer has done really well to produce a flaw free book. One thing I will warn that sometimes you might think she has made a mistake, but in fact they are intentional words. The one that I would say stands out is the use of babe instead of baby or babies. It is not a mistake, but to a casual reader it may seem odd.

Conclusion:  93/100

This is a great book. There is nothing else to say about it. The story flows perfectly well and not only did I enjoy it, but so did my son. The twist and turns are brilliantly played out that it will keep you guessing whether or not the final picture has been revealed right up to the point that the last words have been written. And the characters are a joy to read about and watch develop.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Branding - Part 3

Before hand I’ve been talking about the importance of the brand and the reason why getting the brand right is essential. Now I want to give a little practical advice and actually speak of the steps on creating an online brand. In my opinion there are two ways in which you create your brand – with your product and with your profile. Many people will see either one or the other, but not necessary both. That doesn’t mean that you can have two contrasting brand types, because there will be a small percentage of readers who will see both (normally your core fan group) and by having contrasting brands you could turn them away.

But before you can create your brand you need to understand what your readers would like from your brand. This is where research comes in key. It is simple to say as an author my readers want a well written book with a catchy storyline and sparkling cover. But that is what will get them interested in one book; it won’t get them to keep an eye on you. If you want readers to return to you time and time again, you need to go a little deeper than just your book being good.

Then once your research is done, you can concentrate on designing and building your brand. Down below is a list of what I think are the important steps in creating a consistent, manageable brand that will engage readers and develop loyalty among them.

1.       Research your readers
There is no point in not knowing who your readers are. If you write historical romance for instance, the readers are probably going to know something about that time period. The list of characteristics could be long. Try to imagine them and get a list of what other interests they have that complement your books. For instance with historical romance, do they like Jane Austin or BBC period dramas? It will work out great in future contact with them.
2.       Create a list of words you want to be associated with you.
This doesn’t have to be a long list. But they have to be something that you think you can achieve and define you, how you want to interact with your readers and your books. I decided upon six: helpful, resourceful, accommodating, appreciative, emotional and unpredictable.
3.       Decide upon how to achieve those
Each one of mine above I attempt to do in different ways. For example, being helpful and resourceful I attempt to do by posting these marketing tips; accommodating I fulfill with my review structure and with appreciative all I do is interact with those who post comments on my site.  With my books I use the last two. I concentrate my stories around a single core feeling and interlace other feelings around that more subtly. In Ghost Haunts I tap into several emotions and I spread them out in the stories. But I also like to do the unexpected; I like to keep readers on their toes. We’ll see if I have made that work soon I hope.
4.       Keep at it and be consistent
It is useless if you are approachable one day, but once you have made the sale and your reader has bought all your books you won’t return an e-mail. Or that you want to appear friendly but one day you go on and complain about the readers who aren’t posting reviews. You will destroy your image and create a whole new one based on one thing: bad behavior. Keep at it and your brand will solidify and readers will come back to you again and again.
5.       Interact with your readers
It is no good interacting with other authors all the time. The vast majority of authors spend most of their time writing. Some will read, but they probably have a very long reading list. Instead you should be talking to readers. Did you realize that 13% of return customers online do so through e-mail? Or that around 50% of online customers make a purchasing decision based on more than one interaction with the brand? So why don’t you interact with your readers. And don’t make it all about your book. Remember that list of interests I spoke about earlier? Now is the time to use it. Set up a google alert of that list and when a news article comes up related to it: inform your readers. Do this through facebook, twitter and your blog.
6.       Keep at it
Creating a brand is not an overnight success. It takes time and hard work. But by doing so, you will create a loyal following of readers and reach out to more people through the most successful marketing tool that an author can have: word of mouth.

And that concludes the “Branding series”. If you have enjoyed the series, please feel free to comment below.

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