Reader Interview Number Fourteen – Thaddeus White

Welcome to Thaddeus White

Where are you from? The United Kingdom (Yorkshire, more precisely)

On average how many books do you read in a month? It varies a bit, but two would probably be average. Recently I’ve not been reading as much. I was working on 2-3 projects at once, and when I got most of those done I really wanted to crack on with writing a book I’d postponed for a little while.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? Well, I started reading at a very young age and can’t really imagine not doing so. Books bring a huge amount. It’s enjoyable escapism to read fiction, and history is fascinating stuff that happens to be educational. Reading stimulates the imagination more than any other medium, I think, because the author provides you with the skeleton of a story and your creativity has to add flesh to the bones.

What genres do you prefer and why? Most of the stuff I read is classical history or fantasy, but I do occasionally read science or science fiction. I find older history (Roman and Greek stuff) interesting, partly because it’s a whole different world and partly because if things had been a little different in the past the modern world would be wildly different (we might not be using the Latin alphabet, for example). Fantasy offers escapism, as well as being the genre which allows for the greatest degree of freedom and creativity. I love reading lore and how authors have put together their worlds.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? Picking a single author is tricky. Going for history, I’d probably say Theodore Ayrault Dodge is my favourite. His military biographies on Hannibal, Alexander and Caesar are fantastically detailed and festooned with useful maps, diagrams and illustrations. And, because he was a soldier in the American Civil War, he has a soldier’s mindset and I think that helps him interpret what happened and convey it to the reader.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? In a perfect world, paper books. I prefer the feel of a real book in my hand, but lack of space and lower cost/greater convenience means that most fiction I buy is electronic. For histories (partly because they often have maps/photos in and these don’t translate as well to an electronic format) I usually buy a physical copy.

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? A mixture of ways. I often visit Amazon and find a book I really liked, then check what others who got it subsequently bought. Sometimes I’ll check the Kindle Store and see what’s recommended for me. For history I might want to find out more about a specific period or person and go searching for something to cover that particular subject. If I see free books advertised on Twitter I often download those.

Oh, and I also sometimes buy ones that are Book of the Month at the Indie Book Club on Goodreads. I’ve found a few good books that way.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice? I do check reviews and ratings, but the biggest advantage of e-books is that a sample can be downloaded. I do that quite a lot, because then I can see for myself, for free, what the book’s like and whether I like the writing style. If I simply don’t care what happens to the characters/story after that then I just don’t bother buying the full book.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc.? Characters. I’d rather read about an interesting and witty fellow doing his tax returns than the most boring man on Earth saving the world in a tedious way. Obviously the other stuff matters too, but that’s top of the list for me.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? Ahem, this may be a long answer. Deus ex machina really annoys me (this is when a bunch of loose ends are conveniently tied up by a contrived plot device that comes from nowhere). It renders the whole plot practically meaningless and is pretty hackneyed (even in classical history audiences loathed it, and it got its name because an actor playing a god would descend on the theatre and sort out an overly complicated plot in the last few minutes).

When authors try and ram their own brand of politics or morality into the reader’s face it’s irksome. This can sometimes happen in history when modern morality gets imposed on the ancient world.

I also like fiction that has a bit of humour. Not a laugh-a-minute (although I do read comedy sometimes) but just to show that the characters/world is credible. I can suspend disbelief for dragons and magic and elves, but not for a world where nobody takes the piss or makes sarcastic remarks.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? Absolutely. It’s not hard to see why, and it’s more surprising to me that it isn’t happening more quickly. Books are perfect for an electronic format, and delivery is almost instantaneous. Plus, websites have enormous stock which can’t be matched by the confines of a physical store. I do think it’s a little sad, but there’s only one bookshop within walking distance of my house. It’s small, cramped and has a poor selection. The alternative is a bus into town, which takes (there and back) an hour or more, and a fiver. For that I could download at least two decent e-books in a few minutes.

Reviewer Interview Number Two – Ignite

Library of Erana Reviewer Interviews.

Welcome to Kath, who reviews as as Ignite.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a retired administrator, so I have plenty of time for reading.  I studied geology at university and more recently, archaeology.  I’m interested in most things!

On average how many books do you read a month?  What genres do you enjoy?

It’s difficult to say because I read some before publication, to proof-read, and I often read these twice.  I’d say probably a dozen a month give or take.  Favourite genres have always been fantasy, thriller and crime, horror, and to be honest, most things except romance, erotica and chick-lit.  I just can’t seem to get into these, or to take them seriously.

Where do you tend to review? 

I review on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle forum. http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/51445, usually on Amazon and more recently, since I joined them, the KUForum http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/forum-35.html

Any book to which I give a five star review, I also feature on my blog. http://www.ignitebooks.blogspot.co.uk/

Why do you review – for other readers, for author feedback, for yourself?

I review primarily for other readers.  I take notice of reader reviews and I like to help other readers to choose.  When I read a book I really enjoy, I want to pass the recommendation on.  It does help me too, of course.  When you read so many books, having your own thoughts there in the form of a review helps you to recall the details.  I’m sure it does help authors to have feedback but that’s not my primary aim.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive?

I’m aware that there’s a sort of perceived etiquette that says that an author shouldn’t comment.  I think there are times when they have a right to.  If a reviewer states something which is factually wrong or it becomes obvious that s/he hasn’t actually read the book – or only a part of it – I’m happy if the author points this out.  I can’t see how anyone could find fault with ‘Thank you for taking the time to review my book.’

What are your opinions on “sockpuppetry” after the scandals of well-known authors leaving bad reviews for competitors?

I would imagine they’re the same as everyone else’s.  It’s very poor form.  If you can’t leave a review in your own name, or your usual on-line user name, it smacks of cheating to leave them in a ‘fake’ name, created for the purpose.  It brings all reviews under suspicion too.

What are your opinions on a well-written review? What should it contain and how do you feel about personal comments listed in reviews.

I’m happy if the review gives a little detail about the story but obviously not too much, and definitely no spoilers.  After all, you want to tell the potential reader what it was that drew you to want to read the book initially and it’s often the plot.  I tend to make my reviews fairly short, but in two sections.  The first gives a bit of the flavour of the story.  The second paragraph will say why I particularly liked or disliked the book.  I’ll comment on the writing style, the plot lines, characters, dialogue (an important one for me – I hate it when people sound like they’re talking to a hall full of delegates when it’s their wife they are addressing) and whether I found the whole book a good experience.  If I had any issues with it, such as punctuation, homophones, if I felt the plot was weak, I’ll say this too.

I don’t think personal comments about the author or his/her other activities really have any place in a book review.

Do you find yourself being suspicious of a book with only 4 and 5 star reviews?

Not at all.  Not as suspicious as I am of the people who comment on it!  I suspect they are less successful authors.  Aren’t I awful?  If a book is good, why can’t people say so?  I refuse to mark a book down just because people say things like this.  A book that was so enjoyable you want to tell your friends about it deserves a four or five star rating.  People who get irate about that need to get over themselves.  I loved it – what’s that got to do with you?

Do the reviews of others influence your choices? What attracts you to read a book?

I’m influenced by the reviews of people who I know often share my taste in books.  You soon get to know people in the online book world who enjoy what you enjoy.  If I don’t ‘know’ the reviewer I always check how many reviews they’ve done.  If it’s just the one, or it’s in single figures I tend to discount it.  Any experienced reviewer will explain his or her review and I can take it from there.

I’m attracted to read a book by the genre – it’s got to be something I’d normally like.  I also take some notice of the blurb.  One or two books have sold themselves to me on the strength of just one intriguing line in a blurb!  I will also immediately buy anything by an author whose work I’ve enjoyed previously.  Because I take a lot into consideration before I buy, I’m more likely to give a good review than a bad one.  I simply wouldn’t buy a book I thought I wasn’t going to like.

Do you deal with reviewing Indie books differently to how you review a mainstream book?

No.  I use the same criteria for all books.  I want a good story, believable characters and I want to be entertained, moved, mystified, intrigued, no matter who wrote it.  I’m aware, of course, that a mainstream publisher has staff who read and reread books for typos and grammar and that means there isn’t a level playing field for indies who earn comparatively little.  I am one of many readers happy to send an email or private message if we find any faults like this.  The beauty of e-publishing is that you can almost instantly update your book.  I will consider the book’s rating as though it didn’t have those errors (because soon it won’t).  The only exceptions to this are books which have a lot of fundamental problems – more than I feel up to dealing with alongside reading it.  I will then comment that it needs further attention.

A good story is a good story!

Reader interview – Lilly Van Horn

Library of Erana Reader Interview – Number One.  Welcome to Lilly Van Horn.

Where are you from?

The United States.

On average how many books do you read in a month? 

Five.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? 

They keep my imagination active and keep me learning. They bring much needed relaxation and escape from a worsening world.

What genres do you prefer and why?

I prefer fantasy and sci-fi with erotic elements.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? 

Several! Let’s see if I can narrow it down… My current favorite is An Unexpected Return by Jessica E. Subject because her writing is beautiful, the perfect amount of description and character development, and the sex is hot.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? 

I used to be strictly paper books but I’ve moved on to eBooks because it’s so easy to read them on my treadmill. Being able to hold it with one hand or not at all is so worth it! But, if I love the book, I usually buy the paperback or hardback to support the author even more.

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? 

As an author, I read authors who I am friends with or have connections with first. Then I read books recommended by my friends. Reviews do play a small part.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice? 

A great cover! A bad cover will make me pass it up. I still haven’t read the Sookie books because I hate those covers. I definitely read reviews but I take them with a grain of salt because not every book is for everyone. Before buying I MUST be able to read an excerpt or I don’t buy it.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc.? 

All of the above. As an author I notice everything, even formatting. The most important thing though would have to be if the story pulls me in and the characters keep me wanting to read.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? 

Poor descriptions or cold writing (very little emotion) in traditionally published. For self-published, bad grammar, improper switching of points of view, and the same things listed for trad pubbing. For both: bad formatting is a huge pet peeve.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline?

Absolutely. It’s unfortunate because I love them. But then, they also demand a minimum of 45% off an author’s book just to stock them so they aren’t exactly author friendly. I know they have overhead and such but that leaves an author change in their pocket which is ridiculous considering how much work goes into a novel.