NetGalley and Me

I know, I’m not the world’s most wanted reviewer, but I am very glad to have been discovered on Netgalley.com and am now prompted by them to read titles for publishers like Random House and the likes. I’m so glad it makes me feel all …

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You too can become a reviewer. Sign up on Netgalley.com, create a review blog, and start reading, reviewing and sharing those reviews all over the interwebz.

Yes, I am a self-publishing author with a secret wish to one day be discovered and have my book on NetGalley too, but for now I am feeling very happy with the books that are being offered to me to read for review, because to be honest, they are pretty good. 🙂

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Just today I finished The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons cover MurderBagafter having read quite a few self-published titles that left me unsatisfied, this one showed what quality is about. And yes it was a title by Random House.

So, yes even if it has been proven that there are very talented indies out there that do deliver quality, this NetGalley service is a treasure trove for us reviewers. If you can get your foot in the door. I have no idea how I got noticed as a reviewer, but I’m glad I was.

Review The Perfect Player by Devon Winterson

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AMAZON KINDLE | PAPERBACK

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I love a good fantasy novel and it is obvious this author takes pride in not only writing a great story, a flawless great story, but she’s also very apt in creating a world you can fully believe is real. That said her creatures, character, major and minor, are all fully fleshed out. I rooted for them from the get go and really wished for good things to happen to the good.

I had trouble putting the book down just because I needed to know what happened next, would the heroine be able to …., could it be possible that the bad guy turns around and show the good that has to be in him? No, I’m not going to give any spoilers, but believe me, you will want to know and like me be in awe of how completely, utterly captivating this novel is. How every word is in its proper place, how each and every sentence works and all the action, dialogue, and narration reads easy and feels real, even if it’s a fantasy novel.

You know what the most surprised me? How this author manages to rekindle my love for serialised fantasy novels, because I can’t wait for the next instalment to come available. Not that this one has one of those open ends that leaves you hanging, not at all. This novel is a full story with its own end, but there’s room for more and I want more!

Guest Blogger – Mark Combs on How To Review, or Follow Your Gut

Follow Your Gut: A Guide to Fair and Impartial Book Reviews

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I read mainstream writers like Stephen King, John Sandford, James Lee Burke, and Greg Iles. I also read lots of Indie writers, people who maybe couldn’t land a deal with a publishing house. I have enjoyed many of these Indie books. Often, they give me a glimpse at the growing pains experienced by developing writers, people who are making their bones in the competitive world of self-publishing.

I’ve been “reviewing” books since I started reading, passing judgment, both good and bad. Recently, I started publishing reviews on my blog. As an aspiring fiction writer, I’d want someone to give me an honest appraisal of my work. After all, if we only hear the good, where is the opportunity for growth and improvement? Whenever I visit Amazon, I am amazed at the number of five-star book reviews. There are a lot of good books out there. There aren’t that many great ones though.

When I start a new book, I start rating, looking at five components: story/plot, character development, dialogue, consistency, and editing. The story/plot must be engaging, and unless I’m reading fantasy or science fiction, it must be plausible. For example, I recently read a novel in which a mafia family discovered an undercover cop in their midst, confronted him, and let him walk away! I’ve studied the mafia for twenty years. This wouldn’t happen. Fuggedaboutit!

Some authors tell you about characters’ physical and emotional traits. This cheats the reader, and it’s lazy writing. Character development is a subtle art form. Show me the character’s traits through their actions. And I don’t need an inventory of what they are wearing, unless it moves the story forward. I have an imagination. Let me use it.

Good dialogue can make or break a novel. I know it when I see it. I also know bad dialogue when I see it, because my first reaction is always, “People don’t talk like that!” Elmore Leonard (RIP) may have been the best at writing dialogue. Other good ones include John Sandford, John Hart, and James Lee Burke.

I also look for character consistency. In other words, is a character doing something that is consistent with what I know of about them, or are they doing something out-of-character (pun intended) to accommodate the story/plot?

Finally, I look at editing – nuts and bolts stuff like grammar and spelling. Nothing turns me off more than a poorly-edited novel. I struggle to finish poorly-edited novels, but I finish them because I want to give the authors an honest and constructive critique of their work.

My review process is simple. I rate as I go. I establish an initial rating, but this can fluctuate as I progress through the book. It is a fluid process. I take notes on the things I want to say about the book, and highlight passages that I can use to illustrate certain points. I go with what my gut tells me. I don’t over-think it. Book reviews are subjective. What speaks to me may not speak to you. I rate books as follows:

1-star: poor editing, poor plot, and poor character development.

2-star: I liked something about the book, but not much.

3-star: I liked the book. The plot moved me to a degree, and the characters weren’t cardboard.

4-star: The book was good, and either the story or the characters were great, but not both.

5-star: I was blown away. Great story and characters.

One more thing. Don’t flame authors. Don’t say things like “That guy isn’t fit to write a restaurant menu” or “She couldn’t write an ad for socks.” Remember, authors pour their hearts and souls into their work. Critique the work, not the writer. A few months ago, an author contacted me and request that I review her novel. Long story short, I gave it two stars. There were multiple issues, including severe editing problems, which I addressed in my review. But, I also talked about the things I liked. I emailed the author when I posted the review. She emailed me back and thanked me for the honest assessment. She asked about my editing fees. I don’t know if I’ll get a gig editing her next book, but I was flattered (and surprised) that she inquired. If you get a reputation as someone who flames authors, requests for reviews will dry up. Now go forth, read and review, and have fun, because ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

Review Yucatan Dead by D.V. Berkom

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AMAZON | B&N | iTUNES | SMASHWORDS

This very witty, and skilful written chick-lit, crime, romance novel had me hooked from the start. It not only shows a woman on the run, but one that knows how to capture the reader and pull her (me) into her world where her adventures are very real.

This author knows how to use words to create real-life situations, even the ones most of us will never experience. Situations that make us hold our breath, sigh in relief and laugh at the characters as they are very human.

The protagonist has her dark side, as the antagonists have their good sides, although one of them is very easy to dislike. It only shows that DV Berkom is a true artist, she knows how to create characters that make us want to know about their life and adventures. Yes, most believable characters that hold the attention and make us root for them.

None of the dialogue is at any point contrived, it has the right amount of serious, humour, and normal foot-in-it awkwardness.

The scenery, and narration, is used to show us what our imagination fills in with details. What I mean is that the author gives us enough detail to set the scene, but never goes overboard in descriptions. A perfect balance between description to show, and room for the reader’s imagination.

I read this book as if watching an action movie with a great, female lead. There’s a love interest, action, a touch of sadness and lots of joy, even with all the things the main character encounters.

All in all a great four star read!

Guest Blogger – Irene van Benthem on How To Handle 2 or 1 Star Reviews

Hello Everybody,

Irene, here from Ice Queen’s bookshelf, for the ones who don’t know me I am a bilingual blogger from the Netherlands and was asked by the lovely Lucy Pireel to write her a guest post about reviewing.

Lucy and I met at the Feed My Reads and Friends facebook event, she was hosting her hour and asked if we reviewed books we didn’t like. My answer was something along these lines: Yes, do review books I didn’t like, I try to do this in a respectable manner.

Why not review books you didn’t like, you are entitled to your opinion, right? So far I haven’t encountered many books that I really didn’t like. I have given only two 2 star ratings. And I always feel really bad about it. The first 2 star rating I gave was a book that was so slow and seem to have copy and pasted scenes/sentences all throughout the book. That ruined the pleasure of reading for me, while I was having many de-ja-vus.

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I was really upset and wrote a rather critical review about it (which you will not find on my blog, since my blog didn’t existed yet it is on my GoodReads page if you want to read it). I would love to know what you thought of the review!

When I write reviews about books I didn’t enjoy, I try to point out why I didn’t enjoy it rather than just saying it was horrible. This way the author may benefit from it, if there are more people that share the same opinion, maybe the author could do something about it, see it a feedback.

However there is also a risk in writing negative reviews, for example misinterpretation, trolling fans and authors that take your feedback the wrong way. It could really hurt a reader when this happens, unfortunately it has happened.

I remember a case where the author was harassing a reviewer who wrote a respectable review, explaining why he/she didn’t enjoy it. I read the review (didn’t see any wrong in the review BTW) after which I read the comments which left me speechless. I did not know that people could be this rude on social media, and I felt really sorry for the reviewer who had to endure all of the harassments from the author and fans alike.

That leads me to my last point I want to discuss, does the author have the right to bully a reviewer for sharing their opinion? I think not, there are always people who are not going to like what you have created, it is like one person likes peanut butter and the other doesn’t. If you want to discuss a review, from a reviewer, don’t discuss it publicly, contact them privately.

This is a little bit about the way I look at writing negative reviews.

Thanks Irene. If you would like to read her reviews and compare your opinion to hers on the books she’s read go to her blog and check out what she’s written about the books she’s read.

How do you handle negative reviews?