Writers – How important are reviews?

So it’s the writers turn to vote. Writers how important do you think reviews are?

Readers – how do reviews influence you?

Similar to a post I ran a few years back – but have the results changed?  As a reader how influential are reviews to you? Do you read them all then decide? Do you just read the top few? The negative ones?

Feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Review – Green Men and White Swans – The Folklore of British Pub Names

3.5 Stars.

This book is a potted history and folklore of some of the names of British Pubs, past and present. Not every pub name is included – it depends on the origin of the name (and the ability to find out what it means).

Some of the names are odd, not obvious and many are reminiscent of attitudes long gone (Such as Quiet Woman – depicting a woman with no head, or wearing a scold’s bridle; or Nags Head – could also be sexist; Saracen’s Head or Black Boy – now viewed as racist.) In many cases the signs or names have been altered in our more enlightened times. Some of the pubs are old – they show which side a local landholder was on in the English Civil War, or whether they supported the Catholics or Protestants during the Reformation.

There are many mythical references – Unicorn, Green Man, Dragon, George and Dragon, Phoenix, etc. Not all in a locale directly related to that creature or hero – and some are named after ships, for example.

The snippets of local history and pride in that history are the most interesting aspect – and some of the references would be largely unknown outside a particular area.

A lot of research has been done for this book, and that shows.

The cons – there were a lot of formatting/typo errors, including a duplicate paragraph and the way certain aspects were laid out with specific topics interspersed did not work well as an ebook, as the formatting was all over the place.

Subject – 4 stars

Technical side – 3 stars.

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews -Part 2

I remember the first ‘bad’ review I got for my first book. It was 2-star review on Goodreads, and I was angry, upset and lots of negative emotions.  How dare someone think that! Of course, now I have moved on, and I realise it is just one reader’s views, nothing more, nothing less.

My point is – for new writers a bad review feels terrible. Someone who doesn’t care how much time you spent writing, what sacrifices you made etc. Correct – the reader doesn’t give a damn about that. He or she just wanted a good experience with the book they spent money on. If you go to a restaurant and order a meal, it arrives and it’s not what you expected, or you think it’s too cold, or too hot, or has garlic in then you will complain. You don’t care that the chef has a headache, or his car broke down on the way in. You want a nice meal. It’s the same principle.

I have a mix of ratings on my books from 1 star to 5 stars, some great comments and some… less than great comments. The books I write are NOT mainstream. Light Beyond the Storm features violence against women, murder, sex, slavery and other contentious topics. I’ve been told it can be difficult to read. Am I going to change it? No. The issues therein are part of the story and the world of Erana: Elves are slaves, Dii (the main female character) is an Elven woman who is not only a slave but a magic user. She has no rights in that society – and her very existence is illegal. The poor girl is at the bottom of the social heap. Olek and Archos are the good guys (and I use that term relatively), but they aren’t nice. Olek is a thief and an assassin – he kills, he steals, he blackmails. Archos is a sorcerer and he deceives, he kills, he flouts the law, and he is, essentially, a crimelord. There are very few really ‘good people’ – except Dii and Ozena. I can understand why readers might be shocked by what happens, or upset by the violence. Some folks are. But then again some aren’t.

Books are a varied as the authors – everyone is different. Readers are different.

So how to deal with ‘bad’ reviews.

  1. DO NOT COMMENT – Really just don’t. It’s unprofessional, it’s likely to backfire. A few years ago there were some individuals on Goodreads who had rated a particular author’s book with a low rating and unfavourable review; said author then started bitching about these reviewers. There was name calling, trolling and general nastiness. No one came out well, least of all the author. Such behaviour tarnishes other authors (and readers) who don’t behave like that and indie author suffers.
  2. ANALYSE THEM – is the reader just unhappy because the story didn’t fulfil their expectations? Or are they reporting technical issues? The first you as the author can’t do much about, but technical issues can and should be fixed.
  3. DO NOT GO BITCHING ON YOUR BLOG – this relates back to 1. Yes, you might be annoyed or upset but venting online will not help. People forget what is said online can be deleted but not removed. By that I mean if someone sees it, then it’s ‘out there’ – it can be copied, or shared. If you feel you must vent do it privately.
  4. MOVE ON – pretty much every book from Shakespeare’s plays to Game of Thrones will have a bad review. It happens.
  5. KEEP WRITING – don’t give up. Writing is a craft, and it takes practice, and commitment. One or two bad reviews can knock your confidence – but just shrug and keep writing. Look for how you can improve – which is pretty much the same as in everything.
  6. DO NOT COMMENT. Yep it’s that important I am saying it twice.

There are blogs offering reviews – and they can be useful. But don’t buy a good review – it will show and many sites (such as Amazon) will remove ‘fake’ reviews. This also goes for review swaps (I read your book and rate it high if you do mine).  Indies don’t have the best reputation and behaviour like that doesn’t do anyone any good.

Don’t get your mum/brother/cat to post a review. They may indeed like your work but the review will be biased. Again most review sites will remove those, and in some places, your publishing account can be revoked.

Wait. Reviews will come. Not every reader reviews.

Good reviews are nice to have, but it’s not the end of the world if they are few.

As I said in my previous article you can’t please everyone. There will always be someone who doesn’t enjoy your work, and that’s fine. Move on. Keep writing.

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews – Part 1

Reviews…writers crave them and fear them. Readers utilise them, write them, ignore them. So what is the point?

A good deal of advice for writers states solicit reviews at all costs, but it this good advice? Yes and No. Let me get this clear – a review is one person’s opinion of a product, be it socks, a movie, or a book. And this is where the issue lies. Every individual who reads a book views it differently. Each person has expectations of a book (possibly based on having read previous reviews), prejudices – and we all have an unconscious bias – experiences/education, and mood.

For example – I like world-building; descriptive prose; great, and believable characters; emotive and lyrical writing. I read: Fantasy, gothic horror, science fiction, historical fiction, classics, mythic, erotica, true crime, historical mystery, science and medicine books. The expectations I have for a particular genre vary – I want my science, history and crime to be well-researched and not dry, but not overly complicated as I am reading for interest not a profession. I want my science fiction believable, or at least consistent, but with an element of the fantastic. I want my fantasy to be rich, amazing and well-developed. I want my gothic horror to be creepy, dark and deadly but not terrifying. And so on. So if I review a book I have read I need to apply this – my expectations for say, Les Miserables or Tess of the D’Urbevilles are not the same as for Cadfael or Sacred Band.

And so you have an opinion by an individual with a mix of views, expectations etc. No review is right. And no review is wrong. They are all subjective. And that’s the point and the difficulty.

As a reader, I seldom read reviews for books – basically because they don’t influence my choice much.  However, I do read reviews for electronics, clothes, movies and pretty much everything else. Yes, I’m weird. Many readers aren’t like me, they put great store by reviews – looking for merits and flaws from like-minded people.

There are readers who have certain criteria:

Engaging characters, well written, free from errors, believable.

But then there’s too much description/not enough? Too much sex/romance/violence/swearing or not enough. How much IS enough? Not a clue. It’s subjective.

I posted on a facebook group – name a couple of books you thought you should like and didn’t. As expected the results were varied. Books I love were thought utter drivel, and books I hate were thought wonderful. This was the picture across the board.

There are a minority of readers who look for the errors in a book or take great delight in bitching about the book/author. It is a small, vocal minority.  But they are there. This is particularly the case for indie-authored books. I’ll discuss how to handle reviews like this in a later post.

I review books for many reasons: I have a bad memory and it’s a form of note-taking; I want to share what I think of a book, although given the fact I rarely read book reviews this is rather hypocritical on my part; I want to support an author.  But people review for many reasons, and in many ways.

Reviews are opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

I’d be interested in what criteria my readers use to review, and if they read reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

Lord of the Flies – audio edition – review

Lord of the Flies by William Golding was written in the 1950s – but this haunting coming-of-age story is dark, thought-provoking and unnervingly timeless.

I first read this as a child at school, I think it was on the English syllabus but it is not just a story for kids – in fact I probably got even more from it, as the cynical adult I have become, than I did all those years ago.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story – here’s a brief synospis.

After a plane crash a group of British schoolboys are left castaway on an island – the boys range from ‘littleuns’ to ‘biguns’ – approximately 4 or 5 to young teen. There are no adults let alive. At first, it’s an adventure – and the older more sensible kids begin to make plans to await rescue. Power struggles soon emerge – from the sensible Ralph, the bullied, overweight and myopic but intelligent Piggy, to the nasty Jack.

The kids are innocent, for the most part, but it doesn’t take long for this innocence to be lost, and the kids begin to reflect the darkness within humanity, within power and petty politics.

Part of the synopsis reads; ‘The boys’ struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Symbolism is strong throughout, revealing both the boys’ capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.’

The audio edition is especially powerful, and the narrator builds the suspense, and the brewing tragedy excellently. It’s a tale which the reader (or listener) at once wants to end, and not to end – because one must find out what happens, but at the same time one fears one knows.

Awesome, awesome story, expertly written and expertly told. Highly recommended.

 

 

Sinners of Magic – Lynette Creswell Reviews 2019 #Fantasy

Sinners of Magic by Lynette Creswell is a fantasy tale following the adventures of young adults Crystal and Matt. Crystal is a strange girl, haunted by visions, and odd occurrences and has no answers for her skills. After she saves her friend from drowning a strange bird arrives on her windowsill. Then answers start coming and a splendid adventure really starts. The world is interesting – with elves, sorcerers, monsters and orc-like beings. The rules of the world are strict, and inevitably get broken and this leads to more problems. There is death, there is wicked magic, there is love, courage and intrigue.

It took me a while to get into the book and to connect with the characters (it may be an age thing as they are young adults – and I haven’t been that for 25 years…). That said once the adventure gets going the story is exciting, well-written and the world well crafted. The two protagonists are out of their depth, taken to a strange realm they never believed existed, and faced with life-threatening revelations and situations but the bond of friendship doesn’t wane. I found myself really wanting Crystal to find the answers, the evil lord to be defeated and the good guys to win out. Did they? Read and find out.

I shall definitely pick up the other two books in this trilogy.

4 stars.

 

Reviews 2019 – Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath – Kirsten Elliott

Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath

This is one of the better ‘Foul Deeds’ series, and all the more interesting as I live reasonably close to Bath. Bath is an ancient city, which has seen its share of blood and wickedness – these cases were, mostly the lesser known from 19 century onwards, there was a chapter outlining older crimes. The research was well done, and the author didn’t sensationalise the accounts (which tends to happen in many true crime books).

I’d recommend this for local historians, true crime buffs and people with an interest in the area.

Nicely done.

First review of 2019! Yay!

Book Review – Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex #History #Science #Social

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex by Alice Domerat Dreger

Synopsis

Punctuated with remarkable case studies, this book explores extraordinary encounters between hermaphrodites–people born with “ambiguous” sexual anatomy–and the medical and scientific professionals who grappled with them. Alice Dreger focuses on events in France and Britain in the late nineteenth century, a moment of great tension for questions of sex roles. While feminists, homosexuals, and anthropological explorers openly questioned the natures and purposes of the two sexes, anatomical hermaphrodites suggested a deeper question: just how many human sexes are there? Ultimately hermaphrodites led doctors and scientists to another surprisingly difficult question: what is sex, really? Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex takes us inside the doctors’ chambers to see how and why medical and scientific men constructed sex, gender, and sexuality as they did, and especially how the material conformation of hermaphroditic bodies–when combined with social exigencies–forced peculiar constructions. Throughout the book Dreger indicates how this history can help us to understand present-day conceptualizations of sex, gender, and sexuality. This leads to an epilogue, where the author discusses and questions the protocols employed today in the treatment of intersexuals (people born hermaphroditic). Given the history she has recounted, should these protocols be reconsidered and revised? A meticulously researched account of a fascinating problem in the history of medicine, this book will compel the attention of historians, physicians, medical ethicists, intersexuals themselves, and anyone interested in the meanings and foundations of sexual identity.

4 stars.

I’d had this book on my shelf for ages, but I wish I’d picked it up before. The accounts are tragic (in some cases), interesting and well researched, but more than that this is a book which makes one think. What does it mean to be male or female? When are where does a person become either a man or a woman, and more importantly does it actually matter? How much of our sex and gender are biology and how much is societal? All the cases discussed were French or British cases from the Victorian era – when the gender roles were very distinct, and sexuality was far more rigidly enforced. Homosexuality was illegal and it was ‘one sex, one body’. A woman was a woman, and she loved men, produced babies and was mild, retiring and gentle. A man was a man, and he loved women, was the breadwinner, stronger, more forceful. So what happened when these lines were blurred?

Biology is complex, and the biology of sex even more so. What happened to the people who were both male or female, or neither? Was assigning a sex and forcing that person to live according to those social mores, or even finding someone was actually the other sex and making them change for the good of the person or to ‘protect’ society?

The book is a good insight into the trials of medicine, social expectations and the often difficult lives of the hermaphrodites themselves, although with the exception of one of the people there were no diaries of the hermaphrodites themselves.

Changes in attitude, definitions, and advances in medicine shifted boundaries, but many of the intersex persons had sad, confused lives – being forced to be a gender they did not identify with. Some lived as they chose, and damned what the doctors thought, and some ignored the ‘advice’. But it wasn’t easy.

Many of the issues are still relevant – fortunately Britain is more open-minded these days. There are equal rights in marriage for all, gay people, and intersex people can live (relatively) free lives without fear of prosecution or ostracism. But there are still discussions on transgender, sexual and gender identity and ‘normality’.

I’d recommend this book for those who are interested in the development of science, medicine, identity, social issues and Victorian history.

 

Review – A Sword’s Poem – Leah Cutter

Review – A Sword’s Poem – Leah Cutter

https://amzn.to/2LuiVmc

#Fantasy #Fairytale #Japanese

When Hikaru’s new husband is murdered by a wicked sorcerer, his soul stolen and forged into a mystic sword she risks all to find her love. Magic, betrayal, courage and love weave an intricate tale in Heian-era Japan; the author spins the world beautifully – as seen by the fox-fairy, and the human heroine. This is a tale of love, sacrifice, revenge and self-understanding – but more than that it’s a wonderful fairy-tale set against a background with which many Western readers will be unfamiliar. Ms Cutter brings this world to life, and its vibrancy and ritualism are everywhere in the story. Poetry features everywhere, and the language is very lyrical. I can imagine sitting around a campfire as someone recounts this as a heroic tale and getting totally caught up in it.

It’s primarily told from the point of view of the female characters – in a largely male-oriented world, which makes a nice change. These women are powerful, resourceful, braver than the men (in many cases), dutiful and self-reliant and such characters bring this sword and sorcery tale to life.

Recommended! 5 Stars

Swords Poem