Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Rapunzel Effect

What does Rapunzel have in common with reviews?
Try letting it all hang down.
Rapunzel lets down her hair - as a big hairy dump or a sensual unrolling of locks.
Reviews...well they can take an author's hopes and either slam them down to the ground or have those same hopes sensitively addressed by a gentle waterfall of words that won't harm but inform.

What am I really referring to? Lower rated reviews of the 2-3 level and the words used to address and explain what put them there in the first place.

First let me say that for LASR/WC, a three rating isn't that bad of a rating. I have no idea why or how it got the bad rap in the first place. Books with a three rating have always been enjoyable and entertaining, they just don't make me dream about them at night, nor do they make me want to rush out and buy every and all books in an author's backlist. What a three rating has always done for me is to pass the time in an enjoyable and welcome manner. When glitches are found, and they always are, the story and/or characters were done well enough that it didn't matter, I still found merit in the story. I still am glad I read it. And I'm happy to say so.

A three rating also means that as a reviewer I have the responsibilty to explain what I felt held the story back. The most important component of meeting that responsibility is to respect the author and her/his work and be as factual, professional and courteous as you can be. There should not be any attacks on the author by making personal references that try to connect the faults in the story with perceived faults in the person. That's ludicrous and unacceptable behavior.

Please bear in mind that I refer to reviews on professional sites and not personal blogs. People's personal blog space can be anything they want it to be and that means anything goes - free speech.

That being said, I ask, "What do you think drags down a story?"

My first thought is editing. If it's a self-published book then it's the author's complete burden. If it's published with a big house or even a smaller e-pub that has editors, then the editors let the author down. But some editing is so bad that it sinks the story. If a reader feels disconnected more than involved because of the constant interruption, that would prevent a higher mark.

What are some specific things that would drag a story down? Depending on degree, there are:
* Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) Hero or Heroine
* Plot holes - makes no sense
* Too many coincidences - how convenient and pat
* Bad or lazy research - American Slang used by a British character that's never been to America and the book takes place in England
* Telling instead of showing
* Head hopping - too many (POV) point of view shifts in too short a space
* Narrative or passive story telling

Those are just a few. The trick to mentioning these types of things in a review is to couch them with positives especially if it's a three rating. Threes should have plenty of good things to say.

Like I mentioned - Showing is tons better than telling.

So, check out these links that are of reviews with "three" ratings. I believe these to be straightforward, succinct and address the issues of the story itself without going off on unprofessional tangents.

The Boy Next Door
Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil
Act Like We're In Love
Hot Spanish Nights

Although the last one is a four rating, the review showcased again how issues prevent a good book from being even better.  So, as you can see, there are various ways to express things that didn't work for a reviewer.  Always remember to surround the negatives with positives and the review should always end on a upbeat note.
Any questions?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Do Food and Reviews Have in Common?

We don't want anything spoiled.
We won't eat anything that is spoiled.
Why would we buy and read a book where the mystery inside has already been spoiled by a review?

Reviewers - spoilers are to be avoided at all costs.

I've said it before (HERE) and it needs saying again.

A spoiler is a published piece of information that divulges a surprise, such as a plot twist in a book. Sometimes it's even a bit of narrative telling a reader in greater detail what goes on in the story - something a reader should have learned BY reading the book itself, not in a review.

That being said. I'd like to illustrate my point by directing your attention to two reviews. Yes, one of them is mine, but the first one really got my attention and inspired this post.

Link #1 for The Witch and The Wolf

Have you read it? Good. Here's the thing. The site provided the blurb.
That's good. It's what came after that had my eyebrows raising into my hairline. The blurb hints at what Lillian is running from. HINTS! Obviously, the author expects a reader to buy the book and find out the specific details.

Notice how the review reveals all the components - the who of it and the why of it. I don't agree with that at all.

I'm not going to pick on the few typographical errors - that happens.
It's the spoilers that were revealed that truly annoyed me. Even the last sentence mentions a negative when a review should end on a positive tone.

Here's Link #2 for The Witch and The Wolf.

Please compare the two. Does the second give enough to entice a reader without falling into Spoilers? Do you see any retelling of the story leaving a reader with no surprises? Do you see more about how the book affected me and my thoughts versus telling a reader about the story itself?

A review is not telling or re-telling about what you read in the book. It's about sharing what you observed and how it made you feel - what worked for you, what you liked or didn't and what were the author's strong or weak points in her/his writing.

Whereas the first review was verbose in the revealing - I only inferred:

The external conflict explodes onto the scene in a flurry of pomposity and effective annoyance. By that I mean the author did a great job in giving me the willies. I really didn’t like those disgusting villainous and highly inappropriate men and Ms. Schneider did a great job of insuring my distaste.
I've had my say. I've given you two reviews of the same book. Now I'd like to know your opinion. As a reader and/or reviewer, which is more professional and/or respectful? Which is more of a draw? What are the weak points that you see in either review? What do you consider the strong points?

It doesn't matter that the second one is mine. I'm not perfect but I surely can strive for that goal. If you are reading this, then I'm guessing you want the same as me, to write well written reviews.

And please, no spoilers. They are as bad as an all synopsis review.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shine On Me

I'm going to do a blatant self-promo only because two fantastic author's books are up for voting and since I wrote the reviews, I'm going to shout out about it. I've written much about writing reviews, now see me in action.

First let me post a teaser - Remember what I said about the first line sounding like a hook? Do you think I was successful?

Silver Zombie by Carole Nelson Douglas

What do the Wizard of Oz, zombies and really cool bar drinks have in common? The answer is the heroine of Silver Zombie, Delilah Street, paranormal investigator.

This is the fourth book in the series and Ms. Douglas keeps getting better and better. I think it helps to have read the previous books in the series just so a reader can understand one of the very intense and personally traumatic events that happens in this book. Ms. Street has had a severe phobia haunting her for fourteen years and it really impacts her love life. A reader finally finds out why she can’t remember a period of time in her life and it’s quite graphic. So, reader beware. I was outraged and horrified on the heroine’s behalf. I am so very glad her beau and lover was there to see her through it.

I keep finding new aspects of Ms. Street’s character that I like or am surprised by. I love her invisible internal, and sometimes I wonder if she’s truly imagined, sidekick, Irma. She reminds me of having Mae West as a conscience.

The interesting thing is that for most reviews, this length would be the total sum of the review. I'm not impressed. Want to see impressive? See the REST OF THE REVIEW

Then there is this other great book that is up for voting:
Dark Approach by Karen Wiesner

The Incognito series ends with a hard hitting, gritty yet cautiously optimistic bent that delivers exactly what readers have come to expect from the talented Ms. Wiesner.

I’ve often wondered how the author was going to pull off the final chapter and what astounding dark secret from the Id would she explore to a reader’s adventurous satisfaction. How could it be as diabolical as some of the exploits the Network has had to deal with in the past? What other dastardly thing had yet to be explored and conquered? I couldn’t wait to find out.

This final story in the Incognito Series, Dark Approach, deals with Victor and Lucy. Lucy ends up being more special than anyone ever expected and it is revealed early on during the course of this tale. Shannon McKee, the head of Oversight who usually sticks her head and hand into the situation with brutal manipulation, is missing from this tale but Angelo, second in command, more than makes up for it when he has to play the most important life and death chess game of his career. In fact, even though Angelo has had his own happily ever after in Dance in the Shadows, in my opinion, he is even more heroic in Dark Approach. The sacrifices he’s had to make over the long course of his time in the Network with an end game that might or might not come to fruition had to have been a severe and burdensome pressure on his heart and mind for that entire duration. In fact this book makes him all the more human because it gives readers an honest and open view of what demons drove Angelo, and it’s a whopper. Read the REST OF THE REVIEW HERE

I hope you've taken a gander at the two reviews in their entirety. Why? Because of what they say - not the words but by the lengths of the reviews. Readers who've seen reviews written by me before can tell when I completely, absolutely adore a book I've read, enough to give it a five book/cherry rating. I'm a bit long winded and find tons to share and talk about. It's not about knowing what to say, but where to stop.

So, please go vote and may the best review win!

OOH, Addedum! I found that there is another review of mine in the running on the Whipped Cream side of things!

Viking Seduction: Blood Hunter by Brannan Black

Excitement and surprises abound within the well written pages of Viking Seduction: Blood Hunter.
First off, this is a first person point of view story told from the male hero’s perspective and I thought it worked really well. In fact, it was vastly entertaining and it kept my interest completely throughout the entire tale.

Grady is a cop on the trail of his missing daughter. Right off the bat I was sympathetic to his character and I wanted him to succeed. What he has to do and what he finds out along the way had me flipping the pages at a furious pace. I liked his gruff, no nonsense manner and he doesn’t pull his punches. In fact, he’s a man’s man and a good officer and his skills come in to play in ways and places he never could have dreamed of.

One person he never thought he’d have a chance with is the blonde hottie he fantasized about. Segrun is a Viking warrior turned vampiress. She has some seriously major mojo and I enjoyed watching her love/hate relationship with Grady. REST OF THE REVIEW

NOW, please go vote. I can't wait to see the results of the voting come Monday. Woot!