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 – City of Sin: London and its Vices

Review – City of Sin: London and its Vices

https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Sin-London-its-Vices-ebook/dp/B003M69WY4/

 

From the first unfortunate shivering Roman slaves on the banks of the Thames two thousand years ago to modern vice this book covers the history of vice and the sex industry. Discussing the rise and fall of bawdy houses, the city’s attempts to regulate brothels and prostitution, the differing classes of sex workers throughout the time period, and how they were seen. There are comparisons of royal mistresses such as Nell Gwyn and the Countess of Castlemaine, to the sad, short and dangerous lives of street whores. And to cover the more modern cases – the Profumo affair and the repercussions thereof. When men (mostly) of power get their friskies beyond the marriage bed the women concerned can have influence, blackmail the men, and bring government and even monarchy into disrepute. But prostitution and adultery are hardly new.

Not all the accounts are tales of woe – some tell of successful women (mostly women), who left ‘the oldest profession in the world’ rich, and lived to old age; there are some accounts of women who voluntarily became courtesans – having more freedom than their married sisters (although less security). Of course, there were many (and some were young) forced into ‘the trade’ and who died in poverty, shame, riddled with disease and often took their own lives. Male brothels or ‘molly houses’ and homosexual encounters are discussed, with an interesting account of the Cleveland Street scandal and the trial of Oscar Wilder.

Overall the book is interesting and contains a varied set of accounts – but is a little flippant in places.

A useful summary of the times and lives of women (and men) of the street and houses of ‘ill-fame’ from the tragic to the darkly amusing. Not for the prudish!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Spawn of Dyscrasia – audio – fantasy/dystopian/specfic

Spawn of Dyscrasia is the second book in the Dyscrasia world fiction – a reader doesn’t have to have read the previous book, but I think it helps. I shall be reading the others soon.

This world is dark, corrupted and filled with monsters – giant insectoids, twisted humans, bird-creatures and hybrids. Sickness has left its mark on the world, and most of the humans live in fear, ignorance or semi-enslavement to magic, monsters and dark forces.  There are, of course, good people – Helen is a curer – an artist who uses her craft to heal the strange lords, who protect the lands from the disease and dark forces. That, I think was the most fascinating aspect of this unique world. Art is power and magic. It heals and gives strength to Lysis – the skeletal necromancer lord who rules. I loved this idea – Helen’s art is her power, her salvation and, in many ways, her curse.  Helen is young, naive, afraid, confused but brave, loyal and the hero of the piece.  She has her burgeoning magic and strength of will which keeps her alive.  Helen is awesome!

The narrator for the audio is well chosen, her voice is powerful, yet easy to listen to. I was captivated.

5 stars.

I am definitely going to read the other books – I want to know more of this world, and it’s history – and listen to other audiobooks by this narrator.

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 – The Day of the Triffids – audio

The Day of the Triffids – Audible UK

I’d forgotten what a great book this is, and the radio adaptation was splendid. This post-apocalyptic tale of plants, the destruction of civilisation and the human spirit is told in a series of episodes. The cast was well-chosen – and I especially liked the lady playing Josella. There is a good deal of suspense and fear. As civilisation rapidly crumbles the hero (Masen) questions everything.

The book – although written in the 1950s this tale is also (as they so often are) a tale for today. Genetically modified plants – the titular Triffids – are bred from an assortment of other plants (and it hints not just plants) and produce oil which surpasses other types of oil. Of course, humans need this oil and merrily breed these plants – which not only are rather aggressive but also mobile. When a comet (is it a comet or something brought about by the Triffids?) brings world blindness to anyone or anything who saw the impressive light show the triffids now have the advantage. They are tough, mobile, poisonous, aggressive, can communicate and are ruthless.

As with many of the sci-fi books written around that time, there is a good deal of classic horror – expect a body-count, and the majority of humans don’t come out so well. Civilisation is only a veneer – and as soon as the comforts and safety of it disappear the fighting, the looting, the backward steps start. Our heroes have to review their moral code. Decent folks who would not, under normal circumstances steal, or cause harm, are now looting, shooting and uprooting.

There are many facets – GM crops (as we would call them today), bio-warfare, the fall of civilisation and a good deal of survival of the fittest. But of course, the human spirit, and brain will find a way to survive.

It’s a great book and a great audio rendition.
5 stars