More Choosing Experiments — Reviews

Mesadallas mentioned in a comment to the last post that she had not been aware of the Dear Author site and asked for recommendations for review sites other than there, Goodreads (isn’t Goodreads all reader reviews, as opposed to “a reviewer”?), and All About Romance. If anyone has recommendations for her, please say.

Before the Dear Author review, I had been going to make a post about reviews anyway, so here goes.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that for years my attitude towards reviews has been that if something gets a good review, I won’t like it. That came from the days when my exposure to reviews was in places like Newsweek and Time. Others probably have the experience of seeing these because the magazines are left in the lunchroom at work or at the doctor’s or dentist’s office (although I don’t even know if these magazines have book reviews any more — it’s been years since I read one). My opinion of those reviews hasn’t changed. They’re usually by some literary elitist who thinks the purpose of a book is edification of the unwashed masses, not enjoyment.

When I became a internet junkie, though, it never occurred to me to look for book review blogs. Believe it or not, my first exposure to such a blog was when Red Adept picked up Rottweiler Rescue early on and reviewed it. Her review gave the book and me (it was the first one I published, remember) a big boost. (Red does not review romance. I understand some of her reviewers now do occasionally.) Even after that, I never sent that book or the romances around the review blogs the way other indies did. (I did send a copy of Rott Rescue to an online Rottweiler magazine.) Fear of rejection? Laziness? I don’t know, but the fact is the supposed Queen of the Spammers never did much promotion except putting her books in the indie threads on the Amazon, Mobile Read, and Kindle Boards forums, putting a link in her signature when she posted in other threads, and answering an occasional “looking for a book that…”

Then Eyes and Sing were reviewed by Kristie(J) and The Maldivian Book Reviewer. Sing was reviewed by All About Romance, and of course now Eyes has been reviewed by Dear Author. The effect that had was to make me go to those sites, see them, and start reading reviews of books other than mine. For starters, when you go to the sites, there are all the covers in a pretty decent size looking enticing. I must confess some of those naked chests — oh my.

As I’ve also posted before, I tend to be a pretty slap happy reader. I never kept lists of books I read, much less with ratings. I relied on my memory that I could pick up a book, read the first couple of pages and tell if I’d ever read it before. In bookstores, cover blurbs and flyleafs either drew me in enough to get me to page through and read a bit and decide or they didn’t. On Amazon it was descriptions and reader reviews. Authors just became favorites when I read a couple of books by them and started recognizing the name.

To be honest, I still can’t understand the posts I see in the forums saying, I can’t decide whether or not to try such and such a book, what do you think I should do? Why not read the description, the ebook sample, or the Look Inside thing on Amazon and decide. I understand not wanting to waste the money for a hard cover or trade paperback if the book doesn’t suit, but there are a lot of ways to try something out before buying these days.

However, I admit that seeing all these interesting reviews on the blog sites has me figuring even for someone like me, they could be helpful. For starters they make me aware of books I wouldn’t come across on my own. Then if I can figure out an author is a favorite after several books I like in a row, I should be able to tell if a reviewer is in sync the same way by paying attention to how many times that person’s opinion is kind sorta in line with mine. My results have been mixed so far, but I haven’t been at it long enough to have tried enough books by any single reviewer to be sure. Even on romance review blogs, the books reviewed cover a larger range than what I read. For instance, a contemporary has to sound really super before I’ll give it a look, although I now realize I read quite a few authors considered contemporary romance authors and never thought of them as romance authors. Paranormal out. Books that mix romance with other genres out. Kinky stuff out.

So I can’t give mesadallas many recommendations. I know of Smart Bitches, but I confess they seem a little too smart[ass] for me. Someone sent me to the Coffee Time Romance site recently. Blogs I recently referenced like Rose Gordon’s and Alain Gomez’s are indie author blogs that also do reviews. Someone looking for short stories in the romance genre would do well to keep an eye on Alain’s blog, I think. Short stories are her specialty.

So anyone with other suggestions, please let us know.



21 Responses to More Choosing Experiments — Reviews

  1. olivia says:

    I loved both eyes and sing indeed I liked them so much I have reccomended them to all my family and friends and even to strangers I met who just happened to be reading a kindle. Both books made laugh, cry, and laugh until I cried I’m thinking of the scene at Eph’s house following the street fight in Eyes. My children thought i’d gone mad ( we were waiting in a hospital waiting room when I first read that ) Any way just wanted to say Keep up the good work and I am really looking forward to your next novel

  2. mesadallas says:

    I hadn’t head of Coffe Time Romance. I just visited the site and found over a dozen interesting westerns that I haven’t read yet.

    I’d forgoten about The Maldivan Book Review.

    Thanks! I’m off to amazon now to purchase several.

  3. mesadallas says:

    Just checked out Smart Britches. Have to agree with you, Ellen. The style of writing in the reviews is alright but the site design itself is a little stand-offish. Why title one of the features “Help a Bitch out”? I’m not a prude but it just comes across as crass and somewhat vulgar for women to refer to each other in an off-handed way wit such a deaming term.

    Sigh. maybe I’m just an old square.

  4. Hi Olivia – Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you liked Sing and Eyes. The scene in Eph’s kitchen is one of my own favorites. Hope you do like the new one too.

    mesadallas – Yup, and as I remember the reviews I read at Smart Bitches also had a snarky tone to them. Just not my thing. I’m an old square too. If you remember the thread that caused me all the Stormfire trouble was titled something like, “Maybe I’m Too Much of an Old Feminist, but…,” and the OP was unhappy about the misogynistic attitude in some books. We are not alone. ~Ellen

  5. mesadallas says:

    Never did read the Stormfire thread that started all of your woe but whatever you said you were entitled to your opinion and you certainly couldn’t have said anything to warrant the revenge that you’ve been having to suffer through.I never read Stormfire – just know it’s one of those old bodice rippers with forced seduction or downright rape from the hero that seemed to be the thing back then.

  6. McD says:

    Having too many review sites to check out can almost be as problematic as having too few. How do you know that the reviewers’ tastes are similar to yours? It really all takes a lot of time. And have you ever noticed how differently reviewers from different sites can rate the same book?

    What I have done is made a list of the authors I like and check out their new releases. Plus have friends that I can rely on to give honest and trustworthy reviews. But sometimes you just have to find out for yourself whether a certain author or title is suitable.

  7. @mesadallas – Not even the fans of Stormfire pretend there’s any forced seduction in it. It’s plain undisguised rape. Google it and read a summary sometime. A summary from a fan will still clue you in. “Hero” wants revenge against her father. First problem is of course he doesn’t go straight at daddy like a real man, but decides to take it out on the daughter. He kidnaps, rapes (many times), beats, starves, hands her over to others to rape, drives her crazy (the real thing, catatonia), and I’ve probably missed a few expressions of his love and charm.

    I don’t know about you, but if I ever decided I wanted violent revenge on someone, I’d want it on them – the one who done me wrong, not on his/her spouse, kids, or pets. No arguments about historical context or any of the rest of it has any effect on that basic conviction. Yes, there are pigs and idiots who take things out on the enemy’s kids, pets, etc., but they aren’t heroes.

    Interestingly, the obituaries of the author say before she died she said she was embarrassed to have written the “romances” she wrote. If the poor lady weren’t already dead, fans of the book would probably harass her for dissing their favorite masterpiece.

    P.S. Yes, I said somewhere publicly I’d never again express an opinion like that, but I’m already on record with this one so what the heck. Also, I never said I’d lie about this kind of stuff, just that I’d keep my mouth shut about it.

    @McD – So far as I can see even at sites where several people do the reviews, the name of the particular person is on their reviews. So if I pay attention, I ought to be able to find favorite reviewers just as I find favorite authors. One big problem, though, is the scarcity of certain kinds of books. Someone mentioned in a recent thread that AAR hadn’t had a review of a western historical romance since the end of last year, and I assume that was a reference to Sing My Name.

    Oh, yes, I notice how even with reviewers one person’s mostest favorite is another person’s would-rather-read-soup-can-labels. But isn’t that a problem when you rely on friends too? I can’t tell you how many times a friend gave me a book and told me I’d love it, and I could hardly force myself to read the blurb on the back cover. You and I obviously have similar tastes in a lot of ways, but you like Outlander, and I don’t. One of my beta readers is a fan of that Ladies Detective Agency series. Just the descriptions turn me off, but an awfully lot of people agree with her.

    I also follow some favorite authors, but there aren’t enough of them putting out enough books to keep me in reading, and I read more than the romance genre. If I only read say western historical romance, I’m not sure if I could scrape up enough of them to keep me in reading material.

    I’ve got one more way I try to find things to discuss, and it’s the one that’s been most useful to date.


  8. McD says:

    Yes, Ellen it is a problem when you have to rely on friends’ reviews, just the same as review sites. But like I said I usually have to find out for myself.

    And what you quoted about Outlander is true. I think you and I have similar tastes in historical western romances. But I don’t particularly like Dick Francis, like you do. Just the same as you don’t like Outlander, which I adore.

    I do know that there is a dearth of good historical western romances. But because I read all the romance sub-genres I usually have far too many books to read.

  9. Dick Francis is an example of how following favorite authors can come to an end. Tony Hillerman is another one whose death I mourn. I think James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux books have come to an end, and Laurien Berenson said in her blog her dog mysteries are ended. There’s a thread on AAR right now asking if Penelope Williamson is still writing (they seem to think she is), but you know what I mean.

    It is odd, isn’t it? You’d think if two people like several of the same books, they’d like most of the same books, but it doesn’t seem to work that way, or at least I haven’t found my reading soulmate. But even if I did, one of the souls has to decide to read something new and go first.

    Do you really read all the sub-genres? Paranormals? Werewolves and vampires? Please say it isn’t so.


  10. McD says:

    Ha! Yes, it is so! Although admittedly it isn’t my favorite sub-genre. But yes, I read pnr/fantasy/sci-fi romances.

    It’s difficult to name my top s-gen of romance. But obviously historical westerns are up there, as well as historicals.

    I looked up a couple of hist westerns that I recently gave 4 stars and thought you or others reading this blog might like to check out –

    Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas
    The Outlaw Bride by Kelly Boyce (debut author)
    Nights with the Outlaw/
    A Wife for Big John by Lauri Robinson

  11. Oh, oh, I can’t believe it. No Dick Francis but werewolves and vampires! Have you tried that one I’ve seen referenced with a vampire in a western?

    I’m pretty sure the Kelly Boyce book is a sample on my Kindle. But then one I looked up recently wasn’t available for Kindle. Will have to look, and I’ll look at the other three.



  12. mesadallas says:

    Hi Ellen, makes me wonder what it is about Stormfire that has so many people defend it so ardently. Sounds as if the poor heroine wound up with Stockholm Syndrome. no, I wouldn’t call the hero a hero, either.

    McD, you and I also seem to have the same taste in westerns! I’ve read Texas Blue and have A Wife for Big John sitting in my nightstand drawer waiting to be read. One way I find books is to order just one from an author. If I like it chances are I will like their other books. Of course I have to find the ONE to test-drive which is where other sites can come in handy.

    This isn’t a method that’s always infallible, but it works pretty well. I have read some authors where I felt one book was way inferior to one of their others. If they have a publisher they have deadlines to meet and this fact can really tell sometimes as i’ve read some books that just have the total feel of being written in a hurry- forced as if it just HAD to be written.

    Yes, reviews will always be subjective- any art form is whether it’s literature, music, dance,drama, painting, photography, sculpture; what have you. Heck even grading essays with a rubric will be subjective from one teacher to another. Guess that’s the beauty and frustration of mankind- everyone sees art from differing perspectives.

    As for vampires and other paranormal in the old west- hey, didn’t you ever see the movie Dracula meets Billy the Kid? It’s second only to Frankenstein’s Daughter meets Jessie James.

  13. McD says:

    @ Ellen
    It’s a funny thing that I read pnr (yes, with werewolves/vampires/etc) but never in a historical western setting. To me, that is just a no-no. Go figure. And I’m pretty sure I know the book you’re talking about. But never been tempted.

    @ mesadallas
    You must be a Jodi Thomas fan as well. I hope you enjoy A Wife for Big John. I liked it a lot. Lauri Robinson has a lovely writing style.

  14. @mesadallas – Actually I’d have no problem with Stormfire if it were presented as just a historical fiction novel that went on about some of the abuses that did happen in the good old days. I’ve read a lot of history so ugly it haunts me.

    My problem is with seeing a story like that as a romance and a sociopath as a “hero.”

    @McD – Yes, I do have a sample of the Kelly Boyce book waiting on my Kindle. Maybe I’ll avoid it for a while since I’m trying to write and nothing stops me colder than a good book to read. I’m not a good chapter a night person. If it’s good I read it. All of it. Right now.


  15. McD says:

    I also should have mentioned Kaki Warner’s books. She’s one of my favorite historical western romance authors.

    Her ‘Blood Rose’ Trilogy is excellent. And next month on 5 July she starts a new series with “Heartbreak Creek”.

  16. Oh, yes. I like the Kaki Warner books too. And I did have the sample of Kelly Boyce’s Outlaw Bride on my Kindle. Used it for bedtime reading last night, and it was good enough I had to be very firm with myself not to download the rest and keep reading all night. 🙂 My self-control is very shaky when it comes to reading. ~Ellen

  17. mesadallas says:

    I just finished Kaki Warner’s blood Blood Rose trilogy about three weeks ago. I thought it was awesome! I love western series that feature brothers.

    I’m with you McD, Kaki Warner is fast becoming one of my favorite new authors.- along with Ellen of course.

    I can’t wait until July so I can read her next book.

  18. mesadallas says:

    Hey, ladies! I just found a great site called “Love Western Romances.” It reviews ONLY western romance books.. I was able to find some new books I haven’t read that look pretty darn interesting.
    Have you heard of this site, Ellen? Perhaps they would be interested in reviewing eyes or sing.

  19. McD says:

    @ mesadallas
    I think you and I have a lot of favorite authors in common. I am so looking forward to the new Kaki Warner.

    The Love Western Romances is a good site. But they don’t review self-published authors. Which is a real shame as there are a number of great authors who are self-pubbed.

    @ Ellen
    Glad you enjoyed the sample of Kelly Boyce’s novel. She writes a good story. And I’ll be checking out her next book.

  20. mesadallas says:

    It’s absurd to refuse to review a book because its been self- published. If it’s good it’s good and if it’s bad it’s bad. With more and more authors having no choice but to go the indie route I would think the site reviewers would realize that the publishing world is changing and that they need to change with the times.

    Why do you think romance book sites have this policy?

  21. McD says:

    @ mesadallas
    I think review sites try to avoid a flood of self-published work. Which is understandable. However, at the same time they are missing out on reviewing those novels that are worthy of being reviewed.

    AAR had that policy until Sing My Name was reviewed. I’m not sure that their policy has changed and if it has, how many self-pubbed novels they now review.

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