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Saturday, July 14, 2012

A View of ROOM

I don't do a lot of book reviews on this blog. I tend only to review books I read when they knock me over with a wrecking ball, or when I have extremely high expectations that don't reconcile in any way with the experience of reading it. (And even then, I don't always; I have yet to write a review of Watchmen [the former] or The Hunger Games [the latter].) The motivation is sometimes to drive people to drop what they're doing and go change their lives by reading a certain book, and sometimes it's something akin to screaming, "What were you thinking?" Upon finishing ROOM, a Booker Prize finalist and international bestseller that is published in 39 countries, I was so energized by my dislike for it that I sat down and promptly wrote about 1,600 words. I thought I'd reprint them here.



I don’t read a whole lot of novels anymore. More and more, I find myself starting popular, lauded novels, only to stop a third or halfway through because either they bore me or they irritate me, or both. I knew absolutely nothing about ROOM before I read it, only that I’d seen its cover frequently in the media and in “Best of” and “Must Read” lists, and that I thought that cover was one of the best ones I'd ever seen. I did not even read the jacket copy or the cover blurbs, preparing myself to become entirely enraptured in this “page turner” that had captivated so many readers.

However, it turned out ROOM was both boring and irritating. But I forced myself to finish to ensure I wasn’t missing a grand revelation that would make the whole ordeal worth it. I read the entire book from a Friday night to a Saturday afternoon because I was afraid if I stopped reading it, I would never pick up again. This revelation did not occur. I should have stopped reading.

**The remainder of this review contains SPOILERS**

The book is split into two halves of nearly identical length and is told through the eyes and voice of 5-year-old Jack. The first half of the book busies itself with showing how Jack and his mother busy themselves in an 11-by-11 room, wherein they are being held captive. A man, called Old Nick, brings them food and takes out their trash and rapes Jack’s mother, Ma. The story is considerably hampered by the first person narrative in Jack’s voice. While he ascribes names and genders to inanimate objects, the people in his life—Ma and Old Nick—fail to transcend being inanimate objects themselves.

To Jack, Ma is nothing more than his mother. I often observe women for whom motherhood is their personality, and they are patently uninteresting to me. Ma’s circumstances have made her into a person who is only “mother,” because to recognize herself as anything else would be unbearably devastating. (We do see how she deals with her flashes of recognition through a bit of non-serious drug use, and periods of catatonic depression.) Perhaps this is an issue with myself rather than the book, but I was not that interested in Ma as a character. Moreover, a 5-year-old narrator who has not yet developed his own skills of empathy does little to elicit empathy from the reader for the characters he observes.

Old Nick is the most uninteresting 2-dimensional villain of all time. More than anything, he serves as a plot device. He put Ma in the Room, he got her pregnant with Jack, he inexplicably let her keep Jack, and with nearly unbelievable stupidity, he allows them to escape, which sets up the second half of the book. There were multiple aspects of the set-up that did not serve to suspend my disbelief. The first was the entire premise of Ma having a child to begin with. There are so many questions raised that could not possibly be answered through Jack’s narrative. How was it that Old Nick apparently has sex with Ma nearly every night, but she only became pregnant twice in 7 years. The book sets up at the beginning that Ma takes birth control (ostensibly provided by Old Nick, who has a “guy”), but that obviously only started after she became pregnant with Jack. It’s revealed that she delivered a stillborn baby a year before Jack was born—why did Old Nick not put her on birth control then? If Ma enjoyed having babies, and Old Nick let her have them, why did she even take the birth control? Alternatively, why did she want to bring a baby into the horrible world she was living in? She reveals that she had an abortion when she was younger and did not regret it. Why did she let herself become, and remain, pregnant—twice—while in Room?

The escape itself was confusing. My first question was why on earth would Old Nick (who seemed to think of everything in designing his horrific love nest) not check to see if Jack was actually dead? Why would he not find a way to make sure Jack was dead, beat the body with a shovel or something? He’s supposed to be a psychopath, right? Was this out of respect or love for Ma? Old Nick’s motivations are paper thin, and the reader is just supposed to go with it. There was not enough here for me to go with it. My disbelief was not only not suspended, it grew with time. As a reader, I felt manipulated.

(Other readers have noted the similarities of this book to the Fritzl case and that the existence of a real-life case is evidence enough to support the premise of this book and its villain; I disagree that it’s enough, and a novelist owes her readers to create an entirely self-contained world.)

The second half of ROOM follows the escape, and has its roots in the classic trope of “Fish Out of Water” stories, with such subtropes as “Raised By Wolves” and “Stranger in a Familiar Land.” Ma attempts to reintegrate herself to the world from which she was taken, while Jack observes this new world through little “kids say the darnedest things” commentaries that are meant to be wise, but only skim the surface of striking a new insight. Every one of these “world through an innocent child’s eyes” scenes is deeply irritating. I was reminded of Tarzan, Third Rock From the Sun, Encino Man—any number of stories wherein someone unfamiliar with our world sees things differently and makes “profound” observations. They take idioms literally. They inadvertently ask silly questions that make people laugh. It’s been done to death, and it’s been done better.

That’s actually the best way I can describe my experience of this book: irritating. I won’t pretend that I’m a huge fan of small children in the first place, but being trapped in this kid’s head for the length of a book was the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. I think part of it was because it wasn’t done exceptionally well. Jack is supposed to be precocious and have a big vocabulary. He also watches tons of television (where I imagine they speak like real people), and his mother frequently corrects his grammar. So why does he say ridiculously wrong things like, “Ma hots Thermostat way up”? There’s also inconsistency. I was inordinately irritated that Jack first says the trash can lid goes “ping,” then later it changes to “bing,” and still later it’s “ding.” Jack has childish obsessiveness with repeating and patterns and sameness, so it was really jarring when he didn’t follow the “rules” that were laid out for his character. Related to this, I was annoyed by the non-American speech mannerisms that abounded in the book, which ostensibly takes place in America, such as “bit” instead of “part” and “meant to” instead of “supposed to.” I know Donoghue is not American, but I shouldn’t have been able to tell that in the book—because Ma and Jack are. ROOM needed a much more highly skilled editor than was assigned.

The other major thing that irritated me about ROOM was that it seemed too self-aware and too clever, which again, did not serve the suspension of disbelief. It reminded me of the Time Traveler’s Wife in that the author was trying to be too hip for her book. Jarring pop culture references abounded, including song names like “Tubthumping” and “Lose Yourself.” (Really? Eminem? Really?) Dora the Explorer was an ongoing thematic element. Again, really? I wonder if perhaps Donoghue relied a little too much on her own relationship with her 5-year-old son to add veritas to the experience of a 5-year-old, instead of sticking with her own invented world. No one would have had a problem if Jack’s favorite television show was made up for this book only.

Related to this was the sense that Donoghue had some sort of unclear ideological motivations that she needed to get out in the book. The whole breastfeeding theme seemed unnecessary (not to mention uncomfortable); it was charged with something much more related to the author than the story. The secondary characters are aggressively diverse, with names like Ajeet, Oh, Lopez, and Yung. Ma’s brother, Paul, is in a “partnership” rather than a marriage (like the author herself), and it happens to be an interracial one at that. Now, I have no problem with any of this; I’m as progressive as it comes. But when you stick it in a novel the way Donoghue does, it’s not part of the book’s tapestry; it’s a big neon sign that says “Look how modern and progressive I am.” Coupled with the pop culture references, this book is going to have a really short shelf life.

But absolutely the worst part of the book was that it was boring. The things that children obsess over—their toys, their meals, their poo—are really not all that interesting to adults. Put that in a room where nothing ever happens, and it gets really old, really fast. There was some tension and movement once Ma decided to hatch their escape plan, but that lasted for maybe 15% of the book. After they escape, the tension dissipates completely, and I found myself skimming large sections just to see if anything was going to happen. No, nothing happened.

If you’ve read this far in the review, you’ve probably already read the book, so I can’t tell you now to take a pass. But I wish now I would have let someone stop me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Semantics


I recently had a brush with the effect poor word choice can have. In the wake of all that, now I’m wondering: are we really all speaking the same language?

I used to think that the terms “self-publishing” and “independent publishing” were interchangeable terms, albeit with different spin. I typically favored “indie” because it has less baggage, but used “self” when I wasn’t thinking too hard about it (or needed that one extra character).

But thanks to Kriss Morton, who recently commented here on SYEWW, I had an interesting change of perspective regarding some of the terminology we throw around in this world. “Indie” and “self” don’t have to mean the same thing, and the differentiation can actually be a handy tool by which we separate the wheat from the chaff. But I’ll get to that in a moment. 

I want to start with a few other terms that frequently get tossed into this mix, which are patently not interchangeable with either “self” or “indie.” For reference, I also submit Exhibit A,  the "indie triangle."



Vanity Publishing – This is quite a nefarious term—the negative connation is right there in the words! According to the folks that coined the term (the origin is in question), an author who goes this route is vain. It’s not a compliment.

Vanity publishing has a long and storied history (pardon the pun) and still exists today, preying on the young and the weak of the indie movement. Vanity presses charge authors money to put out their books, while at the same time, making the authors feel all warm and fuzzy. The whole deal is plain sleazy. Authors who go this route are not usually vain, but rather na├»ve—not understanding Yog’s Law. (Thanks to Dan for making me hip to this handy term.)

It is very important not to confuse vanity publishing—which is basically falling prey to a network of evil hucksters—with any of these other terms. It may not be used coincidentally with “self” or “indie” because, while the author made the decision to publish, the vanity press is doing the publishing. Only two sides of the indie triangle are at work.

E-Publishing – Due to the recent years’ upsurge in the accessibility of e-publishing, coupled with the upsurge in the demand of e-books, e-publishing is definitely a thing. Because you really only need a Word file and a good service or software, anyone can e-publish a book with zero dollar investment. But it’s funny to me that this is a “new” term, and newly associated with books specifically. People have been “e-publishing” (making their content publicly available via electronic means) since the dawn of the Internet. Yes, I include blogs in that. I include e-magazines like HuffPost and even your Twitter feed. I include anything posted online for all to see. I would hazard that nearly everyone reading this right now has e-published something.

But what gets my goat about the term “e-publishing” is that it’s so conflated with self-publishing, as if that’s the only route indie authors have. Now, I have absolutely no statistics to back this up, but my gut tells me that most self-published authors are also only e-publishers. However, with the availability of CreateSpace, Lulu, and Lightning Source (to name a few), it’s a wrongheaded assumption to think no self-publisher is publishing in print. (Speaking for myself, it was essential to me that a paperback of my book be available. I’ve sold more paperbacks than e-books. And I get to sign them and dedicate them and that makes me feel all gooey inside.)

So this term may be used coincidentally with self-publishing or indie publishing; however, the terms are not interchangeable nor redundant of one another. One can independently e-publish. One can be e-published without being self-published. E-publishing is a reference only to the mechanism by which your work is available; it’s only one side of the triangle.


Now, to the draw some lines in the sand. I am making a promise right now to abide by these definitions on this blog and in other discussions. I think it’s a useful distinction to make, and I encourage others to start making it as well.

Self-Publishing – This term is for authors who make their own books available to the public independently of a “traditional” or “legacy” publishing house. (Let’s visit those terms another day.) In other words, the person who made the decision to publish the book, the person who publishes the book, and the person who wrote the book are one and the same. All three sides of the indie triangle are present.

But the defining characteristic of the true “self-publisher” is that he or she does everything by him or herself, including editing (or not), cover design, layout, etc. For better or for worse, the self-publisher does not get others involved, and does not necessarily follow all the steps of established publishing processes.

Independent Publishing – This term encompasses the same definition as the first paragraph of the “self-publishing” definition. In addition, the indie publisher/indie author understands the importance of quality and that having mad skillz in writing does not necessarily mean one has talent for editing one’s own work, or knows one’s way around InDesign.

The defining characteristic of the indie publisher is that he or she recognizes that going it by one’s self is not in anyone’s best interest. The indie publisher will seek training, obtain assistance, and/or hire people with the necessary skills to turn out a high quality product worthy of the reading public.

There is danger here of inadvertently conflating the no-no-badness of vanity publishing with hiring help to put out your own book; Yog’s Law is easily misinterpreted. Here’s my law: Thou shalt not pay to be published; however, thou shall treat publishing as a business and invest appropriately in that business, with time and/or moneys (usually both). Just remember: hire someone to do a job. Don’t pay them to stroke your ego.

I’m not looking to cement anything as a pejorative, and I realize I am walking that line. I’m not here to say, “Whenever I use the term ‘self-publish’ I’m speaking only about crappy books.” If people want to use the term “self-publish” free of negative connotation, I bid them good luck with it, and I promise not to pre-judge. I’m sure there are some wonderful books available that have been truly self-published with no outside assistance. But by and large, self-publishing has a terrible, terrible reputation, and the reason for this is that so many authors don’t invest in their books to the degree they should have. The result is a lot of first drafts floating around as finals.

What I am looking for is a semantic way to distinguish myself and other high-quality independent authors from a term that stuck its foot in the Bog of Eternal Stench. I choose “independent publisher.” These are the authors who approach publishing their own books in exactly the same way a publisher would approach publishing someone else’s book. As author Shauna Kelley points out in a recent post, you don’t go from typing “the end” directly to pushing the publish button. I have personally gone through the entire cycle as a professional publisher of other people's books, from acquisition to final print, through marketing and publicity—there are lots of steps if you want to do it right.

“Self-publishers” (and you know who you are): you can bring it to the next level and become independent publishers. Help our community improve its reputation as one of quality, professionalism, and above all, creativity. We owe this to ourselves, to each other, and—most of all—to our readers. 

What are your thoughts on semantics? Is it worth making this distinction? Is it fair? Maybe we should just stick to judging each book individually? Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

El Libro Que No Puede Esperar

"Books are patient objects. . . . That's okay for books--but not for new authors. If people don't read them, they'll never make it to a second book."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reconsideration


When I posted my “Open Letter to Book Bloggers” I had no idea it would make the splash that it did. And for the first couple days it simply laid dormant, getting the same 30 or so hits I get on most posts. Then yesterday, I logged into Blogger and notice that my hit count had spiked precipitously with nearly a thousand hits on the post. By this morning, my hit count had increased over 10% from the all-time total of a blog that’s coming up on its 5th anniversary.

I quickly realized the post had gone viral across Twitter and the blogosphere. At first, it was pretty exciting, kind of like the first time I made the front page of Etsy back in the day. I enjoyed getting into the debate and having the conversation I wanted to have. Many commenters indicated that there are valid points on both sides, and we are facing a dilemma for which there may be no correct answer. And I agree!

But I guess I wasn’t prepared for some of the backlash I got, such as here and here. I wasn’t prepared to see conversations about me instead of to me happening on Twitter and in blog comments. I wasn’t prepared to see comments on a public forum that said basically, “lol, I’m never reviewing her.”

That was tough, and I wondered if I made a mistake. I mean, I am already blacklisted at sites that don’t review indie published books. But I honestly didn't count on actually making people angry.

I want to take this opportunity to address some of the points that have come up again and again in the comments and reactions I’ve received to the letter. There are some definite themes, and rather than repeating myself by responding on an individual basis, I will cover them here.

1. The words “duplicitous” and “condescending.” Okay, I will take my lumps for this one. Those were really shitty word choices, and for a writer, I was being awfully imprecise and ignoring the effect of connotation. I regret those words and apologize to those whom I offended.

What I should have said is that I feel like I am being held to a double-standard by people who are naturally in a position of power. There are some really beautiful book blogs out there, and there are some really, really horrible ones—riddled with typos and “creative” grammar choices, terrible formatting, flashing ads, etc. But I don’t judge all book blogs based on the bad ones. I judge each one on its merit and policies, and I go through each one: Do they review my type of book, do they accept indie authors, do they want print or e-books, how many followers do they have, how well-written are their posts, have they updated recently, and on and on.

I see a parallel there between what bloggers do and what authors/publishers/publicists do—trying to judge quality and fit. Yes, it’s time consuming. Do I wish there was an easier way to narrow down the search? Only sort of, because I am mistrustful of a selection curated by others; I want to see and judge quality and fit for myself, and I don’t want to miss any diamonds in the rough.

That is, apparently, where I differ from my detractors. We will have to agree to disagree.

2. Book bloggers are not self-publishers because they don’t get paid. I heard this from multiple parties. Some people treated the label of “self-publisher” like it was some sort of insult instead of something to be celebrated. That told me right off that the stigma of self-publishing goes far deeper than I had known. I was especially dismayed to learn about some of the bad behavior exhibited by some of my indie peers. This was news to me, and I began to form a better idea of why self-published authors are so pilloried—beyond the obvious quality issues. I can’t change that all on my own, but I think we indie authors have a responsibility to cultivate our community as a much more professional one, because we have everything to lose if we don’t.

By calling bloggers “self-publishers,” I wasn’t trying to bring people “down to my level.” I was trying to show what we have in common. One blogger said I was making “a whole crapload of assumptions.” I guess I was, but I thought I was being rather flattering. If you prefer not be considered “entrepreneurial and multifaceted,” then I take it back. Another blogger called me out on this with, “I don’t buy this ‘sisterhood,’ thing, sorry.” Fair enough, you don’t have to. But I think a “we’re all in this together” mentality is much more effective for everyone than the contentious “power/peon” mentality (see #6).

But to get back to the main point of #2: the people who said this are wrong. Book bloggers (by and large) are self-publishers, or independent publishers, or whatever your preferred term. I’m not harping on this to upset you; I’m saying it because it is correct.

To publish means to issue reproduced textual or graphicmaterial for distribution to the public. So, you’re a publisher. If you’re not going through an established publication, not having your work reviewed by an editor, formatting and posting your own entries, etc. you’re doing it yourself. There are some book blogs that have staffs and run much more like e-magazines, and the term is admittedly a misnomer for them. However, the issue of money has nothing to do with whether you can be considered a self-publisher. Which brings me to this point:

3. Bloggers are not in this for the money; authors are. Tangential to #2, but different. I got several comments that suggested authors are in a different boat because we’re trying to get paid, and that bloggers do it for love. This is sensitive, so I’ll caveat this by saying that I am only speaking about myself here: I am not doing this for the money. Writing novels for money is not a good gig. I would have to sell 8 e-books or 2 paperbacks per hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, just to make minimum wage. And we don’t get paid to write. We only get paid when people buy our books; that’s very different. If I got paid minimum wage for the time it took me to write the book, I might actually not end up in a cardboard box eating catfood.  

I write novels because I love it. But unlike other endeavors, not only am I not making money, I am losing money. Because I am my own publisher, the upfront investment was on me. I’m still working back my debt to myself. I sent 4 spec books to bookstores yesterday, and 2 to reviewers. The whole shebang cost me over $50 (though I do admit I used the fancy paperclips for my media kit). Hopefully it’s an investment and not a gamble.

I understand now that many bloggers are receiving far more books than you could ever hope to review. It’s difficult to see the drops in the flood. I just want you to know that from the end of individual authors, we have a lot riding on each and every paperback and ARC we send out. Even NetGalley costs $399 to join; I could send out 40 paperbacks for that amount. Most of us don’t go about this willy-nilly because we can’t afford to. So while it seems like you are being indiscriminately strafed by indie authors, that's not the case for a lot of us.

4. Self-publishing is a genre, just like fantasy or hard-boiled crime. I heard this again and again: Bloggers get to choose what they review, and they don’t have to review what they don’t like. If they don’t want to review science fiction, they have a right to say so in their policies, and science fiction writers don’t have a right to rise up against them. One blogger said, “I’ve yet to receive a letter (open or otherwise) from anyone disappointed in my blanket refusal of their chosen genre.”

I agree that bloggers have every right to review whatever the hell they want and to reject whatever the hell they want. But to compare indie-published books to a genre is false logic. You might as well say that you don’t review books with red covers. Is that taking the argument to its absurd conclusion? Yes, but here’s the thing: if you know you don’t like science fiction, it’s easy to figure out fairly quickly that a book is science fiction and you can skip it. If you don’t like badly edited books (and who does?), it’s not so easy to tell. I understand that rejecting indie-published books outright is one way of skipping badly edited books. 

But you can’t say you don’t like indie-published books, period—because that isn’t logical. The only consistently common thread is the lack of official publisher backing. There are other trends and patterns, yes. However, not all books fit this imagined mold of having ugly covers and typos and bloated second acts. I was only asking to be judged by myself and not by my peers. I do not think that is unreasonable, and I will stand by that assertion to whatever ends.

5. I’m being disrespectful of bloggers’ rights to make their own policies. The issue of respect is extremely sensitive, so here I will try to tread with caution. It was never my intent to be disrespectful. My intent was to question the status quo and to propose a reconsideration. The reaction I wanted to elicit was, “Huh, I never thought about it that way.” I did not expect that so many people’s reaction would be, essentially, to want to put me back in my place. Several detractors made it very clear that I was shitting where I eat, and several promised not to review my work. I question now whether I will receive retaliatory reviews. I hope not.

The people who were most adamant about me being disrespectful also treated me with the most disrespect, including accusing me of trying to cause a stir just so I could get some publicity for my book. Funnily enough, I was also chastised for not making my contact information readily available so that bloggers could request my book. So apparently I'm a self-serving button-pusher and also bad at it.

Let me be clear: I fully support a person’s right to read and review whatever the hell they want. I can’t and don’t want to take that right away. I have not and will not pitch reviews to bloggers who state that they do not review self-published or independently published work. I have pitched guest posts, Q&As, and giveaways to them, but I will likely stop that as well. I have not written personally to any single blogger to confront them about their policies.

If you have read my letter and done me the respect of thinking twice about why you have the ban in place, and you still believe it’s necessary for you, that’s all I can ask. I’ve made my points. Obviously ours is a relationship that is not meant to be.

As I have said over and over again, I was only asking for this reconsideration.  Some bloggers found this “insulting.” If you’re insulted by someone asking you to reconsider a belief, you’re going to be insulted by a lot, including probably everything in this post.

The unexamined belief is an oppression of the mind and soul. Through this conversation, I have re-examined my own notions and preconceptions, and have adjusted accordingly. I can only ask for the same.

6. Authors need bloggers, but bloggers do not need authors. This was the hardest to swallow. The point was stated by several people in different ways, but the basic assertion was that I was wrong when I drew this parallel: 
After all, if all the authors and publishers suddenly said, “I do not give my book to self-published book reviewers” where would you be?
The people who made these types of comments are probably right. In fact, I know they’re right. You guys have the power, and we authors are at your mercy. I pissed people off with my post, and now some of them are blacklisting me from being reviewed on their sites. And I can’t do anything about it except hope that I haven’t minimized the pool of potential reviewers to such a degree that I will never be successful as a novelist.

I need you, but you don’t need me. I live in that shadow every day. But I never thought that power would be used to say to me, in effect, “sit down and shut up.”



There’s so much more to say, and many individual points that are worth addressing, but this sums up the major points. This is a conversation worth having. I love a respectful, logic-based debate, and I love even more when I can learn and cultivate more nuanced opinions based on new insights. But I don’t abide blatant disrespect, unfounded ideological anger, or personal insults. Please plan accordingly.

In response to the comments about not leaving my contact information, here’s a bunch of it:

Personal email: ellyzupko at gmail dot com
Twitter: @EllyZupko
Free download of The War Master’s Daughter: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115259
My book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/LC9zzg

Thursday, July 5, 2012

FREE Summer Read



Need to upload something fresh to your e-reader before vacation?


The War Master's Daughter has been included in Smashwords' July Reading Promo. Use code SSWIN at checkout to get the e-book in the format of your choice for FREE.

If you choose to take advantage of this great offer, please take a moment to leave a review of the book on Amazon or Goodreads. If you really enjoy the book, you can get a signed copy of the paperback to keep for posterity by ordering through SMLX Books.

Happy summer reading!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Paperbacks Available Again!

After some time on backorder, paperbacks of The War Master's Daughter are now available for shipment. Orders through my publisher come with a signed paperback, bookmark, postcard, "WMD" sticker, and a coupon code to download the eBook in the format of your choice. AND you're supporting independent publishing. What could be better??


"Rife with philosophical metaphors on the nature of man and humanity, Zupko tackles heavy themes with grace. . . . Zupko surprises and engages the reader. She manages what could have been a rather standard and boring storybook ending – “and they all lived happily ever after” – in a way that leaves the reader something to ponder.  I genuinely didn’t want the story to end." - Kelly Leard, Red Alien Queen (read the full review here) 


"The War Master’s Daughter is an extremely impressive debut novelZupko's book is a fantastic independent offering the intense strengths. . . . A philosophical fairy-tale - a political Rapunzel story - in which the fantastic is replaced by questions of the self and the world." - Rance Denton, The Action Prose (read the full review here)

"This is an impressive first novel from Elly Zupko. Within the first 20 pages, I was hooked. The character development is fantastic and left me wishing for more. I mostly read fiction and science fiction, and it is sometimes hard for me to find new authors whose content and plot really hook me. I am pleased to have found a new author to follow." - Brandy Queen 

"I like a good story; I like a book that won't let me put it down until I've finished. I purchased The War Master's Daughter yesterday afternoon and only managed to stop reading for work and sleep. With many books I've read lately (and I eat books like candy), the stories are great, but the writing isn't... not so with The War Master's Daughter. Zupko has a talent for beautiful lines and rhythmic phrases that make the book a joy to read. Give it a try--- you'll love the main characters and loathe the villain, you'll race to the end as I did and you'll hope that Zupko writes something else for you to devour soon!" - Candice Hill

"The War Master's Daughter offers something for everyone. It is a hybrid of historical fiction, adventure, romance, and even a bit of mystery, and it held my interest from beginning to end. ...I felt anger, sympathy, frustration, fear, excitement, and most importantly, I felt an overwhelming desire to follow the lives of these characters. I hope there will be a second novel detailing the future of the countries. I would certainly be sure to read it!" - Carrie Hoffman (read the full review here)