Monday, December 18, 2017

Reading for Reviews -- #Reviews #Commitments #Community

Stack of Books

By Lisabet Sarai

Since our last “what are you reading?” cycle, I’ve finished all but one the books I discussed. Most of my new reading has focused on titles I plan to or have promised to review. Accordingly, they tend to be in the romance or erotica genres.

I have a pretty significant backlog of to-be-reviewed books on my tablet. They come from two sources. First, I’m a host for an author promotion company that offers review blog tours as one of their products. For these tours, the blog host commits not only to posting cover, blurb and excerpt but also to reading and reviewing the book being featured. I am quite selective about the review tours I accept, but usually I have one or two on my calendar.

Second, I receive many review copies of books from my fellow authors. In some cases, I request them; in others, the writer offers. (I generally ignore unsolicited review copies.)

I have a semi-regular Review Tuesday feature on my blog, for posting the latter reviews. About a week later, I will also put them on Goodreads, Amazon and BN.

I see reviewing other authors’ work as part of our community ecosystem. It’s a way of paying things forward. Hopefully, writers I know will review my books. (I’m always happy to provide copies, by the way. Just ask!)

Reviews also offer the possibility that I’ll expand my own network of readers due to cross-promotion. This doesn’t mean I will post a dishonest review, though. Once a reviewer begins to give every book five stars, she loses her credibility.

Reviewing gets me reading things I might otherwise not encounter. However, knowing I’m committed to a review changes my reading experience. I read more slowly, more consciously, and more critically. I’m less likely to lose myself in a book, because my intellect trumps my emotions. (If a book I plan to review does sweep me away, that’s a really positive sign.)

Anyway in this post, I thought I’d talk about a few recent review books.

Rescuing Prince Charming by Edward Hoornaert

I met Ed (aka “Mr. Valentine”) through our joint participation in the Marketing for Romance Writers group. I was really impressed by his intelligent, humorous blog posts, so when he put out a call for advance readers for his science fiction romance, I volunteered.

I found that his novel was as delightful as his blog posts, written in a sprightly, tongue-in-cheek style but still conveying genuine emotion. I have a love/hate relationship with the romance genre, because so many romances are utterly predictable. This book held my interest and kept me smiling from beginning to end.

If you’re interested, you can read my full review here.

One Too by Sherrie Cronin

I’m more than halfway through this nearly 600 page book, which I’m scheduled to review on February 12th. The genre is a bit difficult to assign (always a recommendation, in my opinion!), but I guess the closest category would be science fiction. Most of the important characters have various super-normal capabilities: telepathy, astral body travel, precognition, the ability to manipulate the flow of time. These powers are treated scientifically rather than as magic. The powers have clear limits. Exercising these powers is physically draining. Also individuals differ in their native abilities, and these abilities can be strengthened through training.

At the core of the book is a conflict between two groups of telepaths with very different values and views of the world. The novel is highly political; although it is set in 2012-2013, the references to the current world situation and media trends are quite transparent. Indeed, this is one of my criticisms so far, that the author wears her politics too much on her sleeve.

The heroine is a break from tradition, a middle-aged mother of three adult children, a scientist and a telepath, married to a high school physics teacher. I like this as well.

The book also has elements of an adventure tale, with kidnappings and daring escapes. At the moment, the main characters are on a tourist cruise ship headed to Antarctica, fleeing the evil telepaths of Enteletechy.

I’m enjoying this read, despite the knowledge that I’ll have to review it. Stop by my blog on the 12th of February to get my final verdict.

No Title Provided...

There’s one dilemma occasioned by accepting review copies from authors whom I know—what if I hate the book? About a month ago, a colleague who publishes with the same co-op I do offered me a copy of her latest novella. I’d read a review by another author whom I generally trust, so I happily accepted. Alas, I really did not like the book at all. The tale is set in a world of extreme lifestyle BDSM, which should interest me, but overall it felt stiff and fake. The main premise and conflict struck me as implausible. The characters, most especially the focus character, had a cardboard quality. I could not identify with any of them. The final straw was a long kink scene between secondary characters that did not advance the plot at all.

What do I do? As I said above, I try to be scrupulously honest in my reviews. If I review a book with flaws, I will try to first highlight the positive aspects. In this case, though, the negative so outweighs the positive that I’ve decided to simply let the book sink into obscurity. Fortunately I didn’t add it to my books on Goodreads before I read it, so there’s no record I ever even opened the file.

I’m not entirely comfortable with this compromise solution, but I guess it’s what I’d prefer if some reader hated one of my books.

And coming up...

The next book I’m scheduled to read for review is called Grinder’s Corner by Ferris H. Craig and Charlene Keel. I was attracted to this because of its unusual setting in the early sixties, in a taxi dance hall. It’s also billed as a romantic comedy, a genre I enjoy but really can’t pull off myself.

Check my blog on February 27th, to find out what I thought.

Meanwhile, in late November, my DH and I visited the semi-annual book sale at a private library near us. These sales feature hundreds of great titles, at rock bottom prices. We spent about twenty five dollars for more than dozen books. Some are by authors new to us, but there are also volumes by T.C. Boyle, William Boyd, Jane Smiley, and Joanne Harris. I’m looking forward to diving into this pool of literary riches.

Tune in next time for my comments!


  1. Our county library system runs a used book shop on our excuse for Main Street. No telling what can show up. I recently saw Nicholson Baker's "House of Holes" . I'll bet nobody knows what's inside. Since I already have a copy, I'll leave that for someone else to discover. ;>)

    1. Used book shops are a gold mine.

      Last night I started a book called The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble, whom I have heard of but never read. So far, quite intriguing. I'd never have shelled out full price for the book, but a dollar is a minor risk.

      Sometimes, as an author, I feel a bit sheepish about buying used books as opposed to new. On the other hand, there have been several used books that I liked so much, I ended up buying copies for several other people as gifts.

  2. I've stopped reviewing books. I've found that as an author, it puts me in an awkward situation. I have verrrrry high standards (or perhaps specific pet peeves) for fiction and most stuff that I'm asked to review just doesn't meet those standards -- so I'm left with the conundrum of do I (a) do a dishonest review and focus only on the parts I liked, (b) don't do a review, or (c) do an honest review and point out the flaws.

    And with the rise of self-publishing -- which I totally am a cheerleader of -- there is an unfortunate rise in very unprofessional authors, authors who will bully and harass reviewers online who leave a poor review. I don't want to be in that position, so I have decided to just stop reviewing books. I will always help authors promote their works, but I won't review their books.

    1. Hi, Cameron,

      I definitely get what you're saying. But what if everyone felt that way?

      Of course the review situation at Amazon is very skewed these days. If you haven't actually bought a copy of a book, your review will be buried.

      Anyway, I respect your choice. And I'm going to add you to my "authors for promo" list, if that's okay with you!

  3. I'm remembering when we were both reviewing books for DL King's Erotica Revealed web site. Certainly broadened my horizons, in some directions that I'd just as soon not look too often.


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