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By John Reese, Apr 12 2019 05:08PM



The imaginary worlds and characters of fantasy fiction continue to enthral readers around the world with no shortage of new titles being released but quantity has rarely been synonymous with quality and the truly great novels are few and far between. Who hasn’t heard of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis? And then there are other luminaries like Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson but whilst you might think of a few more names to add to a very distinguished list they are but the tip of a very big iceberg with most Fantasy Fiction novels never selling more than a paltry handful of copies whilst their authors sink into the quagmire of obscurity.


Now great writing and an eye-catching cover will only take a Fantasy Fiction author so far. Social media and a wad of luck are certainly in the mix but to be in with a chance of making the bestseller charts a novel needs to have something that sets it apart from its peers. That gets its readers singing its praises and spreading the word that it's an absolute must read! Trawl the web and you will find a vast number of blog posts dedicated to writing Fantasy Fiction but what do readers really want and expect from a great fantasy fiction read? We recently polled over 1000 of our readers and four things rose to the top again and again. There’s no need to gild the lily, these are the things that make the gems of Fantasy Fiction so very special and here they are.


1 Originality! Harry Potter became a global phenomenon and suddenly there are enough novels about boy wizards to pave a path to the moon. Derivative trope ridden fantasy fiction is so cliché and readers soon toss it aside in their hunt for something special.


2 World building! Great fantasy fiction is all about escapism. Readers want to be drawn into a setting that immerses them in a different time and place. They want to see the authors world, to have it materialize in their mind's eye and to imagine what it would like to be there. Sub-par world building is a sure fire way to get readers dissing a novel.


3 An authentic system of magic! Who doesn’t wish they could perform even the tiniest feat of magic? Just a little something out of the ordinary. For the most part, readers are enamoured with fantasy fiction because they want to believe that magic is possible but they quickly see through and turn off to poorly conceptualised systems of magic. Readers of fantasy fiction have an inherent need to believe!


4 Amazing characters! If in doubt look to the ensemble of brilliant characters in GOT. Fantasy fiction readers need to become fully invested in the characters they read about. You might point out that it’s the same for other genres and you would be absolutely right but here’s the thing. Great characters cannot be fully crafted from ‘how to’ books on fiction. They take on a life of their own as an author writes. They are sculpted, refined and somewhere along the way a little bit of literary magic takes place. Readers, especially fantasy fiction readers know great characters when they read about them and poorly development lacklustre characters will be abandoned long before the last page of a novel.


So there you have it. The overwhelming views of over a thousand Fantasy Fiction readers. Just four things that when done right make fantasy fiction the ever-popular genre it is. We‘ve reviewed the best and sadly some of the worst but a debut author you might want to check out is Michael Ross. We recently reviewed his debut release in The Wand Chronicles series and we think you will like it. You can read our full review by clicking HERE.




By John Reese, Mar 26 2019 04:00PM

Should writers write what they know about or has this age-old sage piece of advice become something of a cliché. Of course, every question solicits a multitude of answers but this is one that would benefit from a little perspective.


It’s easy to take it at face value and begin writing from personal experience and there are certainly a host of bestsellers out there who have made the big time by drawing on their own experiences. Authors like Andy McNab (the pseudonym and pen-name for Steven Billy Mitchell, CBE,) and Former policewoman Clare Mackintosh who’s a Sunday Times bestseller readily spring to mind but is it the depth of their procedural knowledge that fires the imagination or something a little more elusive. The thing is, simply being knowledgeable on a subject isn’t enough. There are plenty of ex-soldiers and law enforcement officers trying their hand at fiction who will never sell more than a paltry handful of books. Experience is great but only if you can turn it into fiction that comes across as authentic and to do this an author needs to connect with his or her readers on an emotional level.


On cursory reflection, it might seem an easy thing to do and yet so many authors miss the mark with it taking an author at the very top of their game to really get it right. Writing is all about using a reader's curious nature to draw them deeper into a story’s narrative and the very best way to do this is by baring a protagonist’s deepest thoughts and emotions, which in turn allows us to make an empathic connection with a fictional (or otherwise) character.


To do this an author must know their characters inside out. After all, if a character doesn’t come alive for its creator who will it come alive for? Protagonists in particular need to feel like flesh and bone and to do this they need realistic traits, desires and foibles that readers can identify with.


One author who gets this right is Paul S Bradley who writes the Andalusian Mystery Series and in particular his second book Darkness In Ronda. A Crime Mystery set against the background of Spanish style bullfighting he not only writes with unerring authenticity but succeeds in making that all-important emotional connection with his characters. You can read our full review here.



Writing about what you know automatically puts you at an advantage, especially if like Paul you are writing about an intriguing and often controversial subject and it can be exciting too. Just remember to keep it real and this age-old sage piece of advice may well catapult you to the top of the bestseller charts!




By John Reese, Mar 18 2019 01:56PM

Heroes come and go. That’s certainly true of the fictional variety where very few linger in the mind beyond the last page of a novel. So what makes the perfect fictional hero? It’s not an easy question to answer because our characters likes and dislikes are wholly subjective yet there are hero traits readers are repeatedly drawn to. But before we come to them it might help to take a quick look at heroes from a classical perspective.


Perhaps the likes of mythological figures, such as Achilles or Hercules readily spring to mind or perhaps your thoughts turned to a more recent era and characters like Superman or Wonder Woman. What they alll have in common though (even when you strip away their superhuman powers) is a quality of character, like courage or honour, that elevates them above the ordinary. Leading them to stand resolute in the face of danger as they combat adversity through feats of ingenuity or bravery.


Thankfully the archetypical stereotype hero is falling by the wayside and the majority of heroes in contemporary fiction are a completely different breed. Remember the TV series Dexter or Lestat de Lioncourt from The Vampire Chronicles. We’ve come to love dysfunctional heroes and their flaws as much as we loved the classical heroes of old yet there are still some tenets authors favour when creating their characters. Now, remember we are talking about fictional heroes here and these are the top 4 attributes.


A powerful backstory that sees our hero suffer in some unjust way which in turn becomes the trigger for change.


Readers need to be drawn towards their fictional heroes and there is no better way for an author to do this than by making us worry about them.


It should be a given and yet many authors underestimate the need for our heroes to be likeable. If not by us then at least liked by other characters in their story.


Finally, fictional heroes need to be unique. Harry Potter has been reimagined by numerous authors thousands of times over with countless different boy wizards gracing the pages of contemporary fiction. The heroes that shine are the ones we haven't come across before.


Out of all the points above, it’s the last one that presents the greatest challenge to seasoned and aspiring authors alike. Some instinctively get it right, others get it horribly wrong. It’s certainly a challenge for debut authors and one who has adopted a unique approach to his hero’s development is Author Hareesh N. Jayanthi. We recently reviewed his novel Hero which you can read HERE.




Finally, we must apologize for repeating ourselves but remember that whilst there are hero traits we are repeatedly drawn to they are wholly subjective. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Who’s your favourite fictional hero and more importantly why?


By John Reese, Mar 13 2019 09:02AM

With celebrities and politicians jumping on the bandwagon and people becoming ever more candid about their personal life experiences it seems we are developing an insatiable appetite for memoirs. Some go for shock and awe and you might be forgiven for wondering if the lines between fact and fiction have become more than a little blurred but a candid memoir can be a beautiful literary effort. What’s more, the genre is certainly not the sole domain of celebrities and politicians.


A good memoir, told well with a modicum of literary prowess, builds an emotional bridge to its author and with the continued growth in self-publishing, the memoir genre has become increasingly diverse. But what really motivates someone to write a memoir and what should we expect from a good memoir?


With a host of memoirs joining the ranks of bestsellers you might think money was a motivating factor but the majority of authors choosing to share the minute of their lives with a largely anonymous audience do so for purely altruistic reasons. We might be individuals but our experiences are rarely unique and whilst writing a memoir can be a painful experience it can prove incredibly therapeutic for both author and reader. Connected by experiences, tragedies, ill fortune or poor health memoirs connect readers around the globe and can often have a profound impact on those that read them. They can also educate and add an informative and lasting footnote to the annals of history on a given subject.


One such memoir is Underground and Radioactive Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico by R D Saunders. With its fascinating story arc, Saunders reflects on why he thrived in such a hazardous environment and willingly put himself in the path of danger. As a memoir, it’s compelling because his experiences are those that very few of us could to relate too but are none the less intrigued by. For our full review simply click HERE



Life is finite but each memoir is a little bit of history by which we are remembered. Of course, the majority of us will never put pen to paper but for those who have considered sharing their personal experiences, there has never been a better time!


If you have written a memoir or are considering doing so we would welcome your thoughts.


By John Reese, Aug 28 2018 06:44AM



We all have the capacity to kill a relationship and whether intentionally or unintentionally there are few of us who haven’t done so at some time in our lives. Romance novels in their various forms explore the ups and downs of relationships but the quickest way to kill any relationship with a lover is through the infliction of abuse and the emotional damage it causes. When we talk about abuse in a relationship the mind invariably leans towards physical abuse but there are behaviours that we could exhibit which may not be connected with abusive behaviour, but come very close. What are these things that could see the demise of a previously loving relationship?


Disrespect.

We may not think we would fall into this trap, but it could be more difficult to maintain respect between lovers than you think. The closer we become in a relationship, the more familiarity there is- which is good because closeness is a great foundation. However, we could easily slide into a habit of disrespecting the other person. How so? Merely the way we talk to our partner, and the way we perceive them. A positive mental image of our partner is a good basis from which to enter into any communication. Otherwise, irritations and our own negative moods can creep into our language. This undermines confidence and can convince our lover that our love for them is waning.


Silent Treatment

We are not talking about space here. Everyone needs space, and each partner should allow the other this if needed. However, silent treatment chokes the breath out of a relationship. When we communicate, we do not have to second guess how our partner is feeling. If we are silent we leave our partner emotionally at sea, and their perception of how we are thinking and feeling about them is likely worse than reality. Without communication, the relationship stagnates, goes bad and dies. Worse still, silent treatment can be used as an implement of control or even punishment. Our partner is cowed by not knowing what is going on in the relationship, and the lack of verbal affection is a sure shortcut to its demise...


Blame

Let's face it, none of us is perfect! We aren't, and our partner isn't. Sometimes the fault lies with us, sometimes with our lover. But blaming and shaming signifies contempt, and communicates that we view our lover as beneath us. This scornful behaviour is toxic to both parties and undermines not only personal confidence, but confidence in the relationship.


Comparisons

No-one likes to be compared negatively to another. But when it is your lover making the comparisons it cuts even deeper. Negative comparison to a parent, for instance, tells our partner that they are not good enough, that they don't come up to expectations, and that others can please you more than they can. Comparisons to an ex can be even more damaging. After all that relationship failed-obviously for a reason. Are our similar traits going to kill this one too? These are the thoughts that may germinate in our lovers head. They begin to perceive themselves as a failure in our eyes, which may, in turn, lead to the failure of our relationship.


Breakup Threats

This is self-explanatory. It communicates that we hold our relationship as of little value, that we would walk out on it for petty reasons, and that we don't love our partner enough to show loyalty. Respect, care and communication are instead the ways to keep our relationship alive.


As a species we are hard-wired to seek out relationships. Sometimes we get them right, sometimes we get them wrong and it’s the often rocky road we travel in search of love that ensures the enduring popularity of the romance novel. From literary fiction to romantic comedy the choice is huge and choosing the right novel is invariably hit and miss but one romantic fiction author you should be reading is Michelle L E Price. Her new romantic comedy Hidden In The Writers Room certainly makes the grade and an in-depth review can be found HERE





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