So it’s the writers turn to vote. Writers how important do you think reviews are?
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.
Healing Springs by KL Rhavensfyre is a tale of homecoming, revelation, loss, love and determination.
When writer Selene is forced to return to her childhood town of Healing Springs, after an accident which robbed her of health, a career she is reluctant, plagued with pain and self-pity and a shell of who she was. Yet the mysterious healing springs cared for by her family for generations hold secrets and power.
The book begins with Selene being forced to sell her house and return to her Bohemian hippy mother’s inn – and the bitterness that brings. Selene finds it hard to see past her pain and loss, particularly the loss of her ability to write. We meet Amy – successful businesswoman, but an outsider in the small American backwoods town. Amy is black, gay and feisty and runs a metaphysical store and coffee shop. So where is the fantasy in this tale? We learn of the town’s history and the strange old witch woman whose house Amy buys. The old woman’s ghost still lingers and as the story progresses we learn the secrets of the town, it’s springs and the curses and blessings they bring. Amok, a strange and possibly supernatural dog appears and plays a crucial and slightly comical role. And then we have Minerva…
The fantasy aspect is subtle, slow to build but integral to the tale. It burns like the romance between the two women. Selene cannot remember the love affair between herself and Amy and believes no woman would want her battered and scared body. Love will find a way, even if it has to call in supernatural forces.
This is a slow burn story, which builds and builds until the exciting conclusion. I have to say I shed a tear.
Well-written, packed with emotion, and full of surprises – this is a great tale. The narrator is easy to hear, and well-chosen.
Recommended – 5 stars.
Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex by Alice Domerat Dreger
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.
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.
I ran a poll similar to this a while ago but I am interested to know if your views have changed.
How influential are book reviews to you? There are some folks who say they will not buy a book with negative reviews (of course that’s relative – what constitutes a ‘negative’ rating? 1 star out of 5? 2? 3?). Some people read reviews to look for opinions similar to their own. There are people who never read reviews. And everything in between.
Personally, I will review a book I read, but not every book – I don’t have the time – and if I really can’t think of anything beyond a line or two then it probably isn’t worth it. I am contrary – I usually don’t read the reviews before I buy. Usually. Unless it’s only got a couple of 1 stars. What appeals to me in a book is rather genre dependent – so it can be hard to judge one against another.
The poll runs for 1 week – and I will report on the findings afterwards. Get voting peeps.
Beneath the Knowe
This is a rich and lyrical short story of fairyland, glamour, one woman’s courage and magical music.
Maeve is a resourceful young woman who wants more from life than marriage to a man she barely knows, and the mundane existence of her kin. She has music within, a glorious melodic soul that yearns to be heard, but women cannot be bards. When the fairies who ‘protect’ the clan take the chieftain’s baby son, Maeve’s nephew, nothing is to be done. Such is the bargain. Eventually, the menfolk challenge the fairies, and are sent home beaten and ashamed, minus the human infant.
It takes a woman, and a magical, musical soul to challenge the great Fairy King on his own turf -Maeve, and her music. Of course, bargaining with fairies has its price.
I loved this tale, with its vibrant imagery, innocent yet determined courage and a glimpse of the power of Anthea Sharp’s writing. Although this tale is short, it is enough of a taster to want more of this author’s work. I will definitely be venturing into fairyland with Ms Sharp again.
Amazon.com link The Hinge Factor
From the wooden horse at Troy to a harrowing photograph snapped in Vietnam, from Robert E. Lee’s lost battle plans to the evacuation of Dunkirk, world history has been shaped as much by chance and error as by courage and heroism. Time and again, invincible armies fall to weaker opponents in the face of impossible odds, when the outcome had seemed a foregone conclusion. How and why does this happen? What is it that decides the fate of battle?
The Hinge Factor is an instructive, fascinating look at how the unpredictable, the absurd, and the bizarre have shaped the face of history in war.
What is the ‘hinge factor’? Basically, it is the pivotal event that led to a particular outcome of battle – from generals despising each other and not coming to one another’s aid, to the weather, to misunderstood orders, to a war-journalist capturing an iconic shot – which turned a nation against a war. It’s a ‘what if’. What if it hadn’t rained at Agincourt? What is it had been cloudy when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb? What if the Trojans hadn’t fallen for the ruse of the Wooden Horse? In many cases, the outcome and possibly history itself would be very different.
The accounts are fairly lengthy but taken from reliable sources (relatively). Yet each and every one reads like a tale of heroes, courage and, often, sheer bloody stupidity. The author is a correspondent – and it shows. He knows his stuff, and he knows what makes a good story and what is important. (check out his Wikipage Erik Durschmied).
The Vietnam account is actually the author’s own account of what happened in those terrible years, and how news coverage changed the tide of that particular conflict.
The accounts make one wonder how many lives would have not been lost if only the General’s hadn’t behaved like morons, if only it had been cloudy, or hadn’t rained, or the retreating soldiers had spiked their own guns. I found it quite a moving book – history does indeed repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce (Karl Marx).
The account I found most interesting was the Berlin Wall. I remember seeing that on TV – something many people would never believe could happen. Within a few hours the tide that had been building suddenly erupted and flowed inexorably towards freedom for East Germany (as it was then). It was the only revolution and ‘battle’ in history where no blood was shed. But what if the border guards had started firing at the crowds? What if the orders had come to stop the tide of humanity? There would have been a bloodbath.
As usual, I am meandering into history, so back to the book. It’s well written, well researched, thought-provoking and a must for lovers of history, fate and military history.
Eurekaaargh!: A Spectacular Collection of Inventions That Nearly Worked – Adam Hart-Davis
This work presents 100 stories of weird and wonderful inventions, full-blown and well-developed disasters of what seemed to be brilliant inventions that fell at the first fence, or sometimes the second, like the first steam-powered submarine, still lying on the seabed off North Wales.
I love books like this – the real and rather sad history of things. Most of us remember learning about the Montgolfier balloon; the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk; George Stevenson and his steam engine; and other notable inventors. But what about those that came before and failed? Or did not have the money to patent their invention? Or those whose inventions were too far ahead of their time to be viable. This is a book about these folks – the men (mostly – sorry ladies) who tried (and sometimes died) to better mankind with gadgets and machines and came to a sorry end.
Mr Hart-Davis has done his homework and tells a good tale. The tone is light-hearted, yet informative. There is enough information to draw in the reader but not so much as to get boring, or confusing. One could dip in and out of this book, entertain one’s friends with it, or simply wonder at the ingenuity and foolishness of people.
Please note most of these are British inventors.
Recommended for fans of history.
*Welcome to Joselyn Moreno.
Where are you from? Panamá
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m just an average girl who loves to read and craves lots of books. I’m bilingual and I like blogs a lot too. I’m 30 years old, and have been reading since I could, a trait from my mom since she is a elementary teacher.
On average how many books do you read in a month?
Usually depends on the length of the books if they’re short I can read 3 to 5 of them if they’re more full-length maybe 2 a month.
Where is your favorite place to read?
Anywhere I can find to read, being my bed, my car, the mall.
*What genres do you prefer and why? Do you have any genres you avoid?
My favorites would be romance because which girl doesn’t sigh with a good one, terror/horror love to scare myself ajajaaj, dystopia since it seems so real but at the same time sci fi and interesting.
Why are books important to you, and what does reading bring to your life?
Because they can lift my spirits whenever I need, for me they’re like my drug and well they bring a lot of good things to my life, like friends and lots of reads.
Do you have a favorite book or author? Why do you think you like this book/author so much?
Jovee winters, I love her sexy retells of classic children tales.
What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this?
Ebooks mostly, audiobooks are good too so I can go in the traffic hearing something cool, paperback are nice only when you have space at your home for them.
How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know?
Following authors more than anything and with my blog I receive a lot of request to read.
When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away?
For me the covers and the blurbs are it, that can convince me to give a book a try. For me to turn away a book it mean the blurb didn’t catch my attention or it was too heavy for my liking.
*Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice?
Yes sometimes I do, and not really but they could always make a book seem more interesting.
Do you “judge a book by its cover?”
Jaja well sometimes, I do love cute covers it’s a great catch to my eyes, however I do try to buy them for their story.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a book for you? Plot, world-building, strong characters etc.? What turns you off?
Plot and characters for me is what makes a book good or bad.
Too much roundabout can make me turn off since I get bored.
Does the behaviour of an author affect your choice to read one of their books?
Only if they do something bad to me personally if not well people are people and we can’t control them, but it doesn’t mean the books are bad.
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews on sites such as Goodreads?
I think it’s awesome, they get to know their fans and interact with them, that is always a good thing.
If you had to pick three favourite books to take to a desert island what would they be?
Fields of Elysium, The Veil: Awakening, Red and her Wolf
Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline?
Yes and no, Yes because they’re so few you can get to really like bookshops, and no because lots of business sells books so they are like miniature bookshops inside stores, I’m hopeful they never disappear.
If you are a reviewer why do you review?
Because I like to help people discover new books and authors to know people out there likes their books.
What factors are important in a review?
That the plot is good more than anything in my case.
What are your views on paid for reviews?
It will depend if you’re paying for a good review then it’s bad it should be honest, if you’re paying for the time someone took for reading your book it maybe be more like a donation to that person to keep reading and doing what they love.
Are you influenced by other reviews when choosing a book? What other factors influence your choice?
Not really, I do see what other people think and it’s a matter of points of view.
What influences my choice in a book will be the cover design if it is appealing to me and if the story is enticing.
When reviewing what are the important criteria? Editing? Plot? Which factors do you overlook? (if any)
My criteria, plot and character making, I do overlook editing sometimes since we are humans and can make mistakes.
What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive?
Positive because that shows they care and are willing to learn from those reviews and grow as authors.
Do you feel it is appropriate to discuss author behaviour in a review, is this a factor which influences your choice?
NO its not, a review should solemnly be what you think about a book, no hard feelings in it.
If you need to say something about behavior you can always talk with the author directly.
A lot of readers comment about a book with all 4 or 5 star reviews and nothing below as being suspicious? What do you think about this?
That they really liked these books, it’s not unheard of, I guess.
Do you give negative reviews?
I do try not to be negative about my reviews but if I don’t like a book I try to be professional and polite about it and I never blame a book for not liking it, it’s just not my taste that’s all.
Do you mainly stick to your preferred genres, or would you consider reviewing outside your comfort zone?
I usually stick with my genres but from time to time I like to try and explore a different thing, it can surprise me.
Do you deal with reviewing Indie books differently to how you review a mainstream book? NO I review them the same way, they’re books and shouldn’t be treated differently just like people.
Have you ever been a victim of an ‘author behaving badly’? How did you deal with it?
Just one time and I think it was kind of my fault too, but I think that she was too harsh and judgmental the way she looks at things, well I did apologize to her and all but after that I didn’t want to read her anymore.
Murders and Mysteries, People and Plots: A Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Miscellany
I found this local history book when I was looking for something else. As I was born in Buckinghamshire it appealed to me.
The author is/was a vicar and this showed throughout the book. There was a bias towards the religious personages and buildings of the area, and although interesting enough some wider accounts would have been nice. The author knows his stuff and has obviously spent time researching the areas but all the accounts are pretty short, and sometimes a couple lumped in together, which gets rather confusing.
There were a few odd grammatical features – which began to get on my nerves after a while – mostly capitalisation where none was needed. Perhaps it was a style choice for the author, but it did throw me out of the accounts somewhat. That said the book was nicely laid out, with a reasonable mix of illustrations and prose and could be easily dipped into.
None of the accounts was especially detailed, but there were quite a few and these provided enough information to whet the appetite and leave the reader wanting to know that region of England better.
Overall I’d say a good first insight into the local history of this English counties.