An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

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Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Paladins Release Tour: Reviewed Here

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my Pen Sisters is releasing a new book tomorrow, May 3. If you’re a fan of young adult romance, you want to pick up your copy of The Paladins by Julie Reece. Go ahead and click the cover photo. You can pre-order it today. As in now.

This book is a sequel to The Artisans. You can read my review of that book here.

When I first learned Ms. Reece was writing a sequel, I thought, “Huh?”

My depth of thought amazes even me sometimes.

The reason I was stymied is because The Artisans is completely self-contained. It doesn’t leave any nagging questions remaining. The problem is resolved and the characters are in their “happy for now” existence.

But that doesn’t mean the characters had nothing left to say. Maybe you wondered what happened with Cole. How did he adjust to life after being trapped in The Void for five years? Did things with Raven and Gideon last?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and so much more if you read The Paladins.

The Blurb

The Paladins CoverThe Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

My Review

I was involved from the first page. And I was enthralled with Cole by the third chapter. He’s a much more engaging character than Gideon.

Reece takes us into the story from the perspective of all three of the main characters. Her narration is exceptional. Each chapter sounds like the chosen narrator. Cole’s voice is fun, engaging and sprinkled with British euphemisms. Raven is snarky, although a little more melodramatic than before. Gideon is dark, but wait! That’s what’s going on inside his handsome head?

Elemental magic makes its appearance here, which surprised me since it didn’t have the same “feel” as the Artisan magic they “destroyed” in the first book. While they were slow to realize the source of the magic, they were quick to determine the keeper of The Void and the entrance into it. That seemed a little too convenient to me.

The romantic angle in this story isn’t as compelling as in the first book. Gideon decides to dump Raven and encourage her and Cole to get together. (I know. He doesn’t even LIKE that guy.)

Raven isn’t impressed to be dumped and pawned off on someone else. She thought Gideon was going to let her start making her own decisions. Why is he trying to manipulate things again?

And Cole is starting to have feelings for the ghost girl he’s desperate to rescue.

I didn’t guess the exact twist to that whole thing (kudos to the author), but I knew that our lovely Desiree (witch extraordinaire from the first book) would have to be involved somehow. If she got the connection to the water element, there was no way she could have been drowned as they assumed.

I was a tad disappointed in The Void’s populace. Zombies? I’m not a fan of them at all. Three witches sharing one eye? Been done before. The minotaur in the labyrinth was a nice touch and well-played by the author. (Although I’m not sure how the earth magic would have created a link to animals. That seemed a little too convenient, too.)

Will Cole get a girl in the end? Can Gideon swallow his pride? Will Raven be able to escape her own dark fears?

Read it and you’ll see.

My Recommendation

You should read The Artisans before you read this book (the eBook is only 99 cents) . It will give you the proper context for the characters and especially the villain. You won’t be sorry. It was a ghost story I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you like fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. Paranormal? You’ll get that here for sure. Maybe you’re more of a mythology buff. Reece has you covered. If you want it, The Paladins has got it.

There is romance, but it’s more like the third story line in this novel. The quest to resolve magical issues is primary and character growth secondary.

Even though I gave it only 4.3 out of five stars, I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Julie ReeceBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with Julie here:    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumbr | Instagram | Goodreads

The Giveaway

Contest runs until May 20, 2016. The prize(s) :

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece (INT)

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The Storyspinner

Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.

In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).

I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.

(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)

I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.

Yes, you read that right.

Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.

Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?

The Blurb

StorySpinner CoverIn a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

My Review

This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).

The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.

I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.

There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.

Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.

If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.

I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.

Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.

Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.

My Recommendation

There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).

This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).

The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.

Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.

And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.

Because sometimes those wishes are granted.

Ready for Romance?

To Get Me To YouTo Get Me To You by Kait Nolan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This romance gets a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars from me.

Nolan writes in a way that draws me into the story. Even though these character experiences were far out of my realm of experience, I felt them. I believed them.

Now that I know the characters of Wishful, MS, and I’m ready to return to the town again and again.

It was interesting to start the story with the male lead, Cam. I think the author did this to introduce us to Wishful because the town is as important to the story as any of the characters. Cam isn’t the typical alpha male. He’s the kind of guy girls should wish to meet and fall in love with: caring, protective, passionate, responsible. Yeah, handsome helps too.

Norah, a high-powered marketing executive in the Windy City, lives a life far away from my normal world. However, I completely relate to her family background, since my parents also divorced. She is the alpha character in this book, but finally realizes that needing someone else can be a good thing.

I don’t read erotic romances, generally because I don’t need to have sex scenes spelled out for me. I’ve got a great imagination, so focusing on the inner thoughts more than the outer happenings is my preference for these interludes in a book. They were short and rare, so I could skim and still enjoy the tension they brought to the story.

This is an excellent contemporary romance. The town and minor characters came to life for me, making the story that much more enjoyable.

If you want to laugh, cry and feel like happily ever after is a real thing, this book is for you.

View all my reviews

Yes, this was a cheap way to fill my post for the day. Come back next week for sage (or cheeky) words about family or writing.

Clay’s Hope a Companion to Hope(less) by Melissa Haag

I’ve read the entire Judgment of Six series (four books) without coming up for air. Well, except when I had to wait for a new book to be released.

I’m still waiting for Isabelle’s story – and to find out how the six special human girls are going to stop the bad guys. I’m sure their werewolf boyfriends will be involved somehow.

Clay’s Hope tells the same story as Hope(less). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about revisiting the first installment of the Six series – even though it has been my favorite one of the books.

And most of that has to do with Clay – his persistence to win Gabby at any cost. And then to protect her even before she admits she’s falling in love with him.

What I enjoyed

Romance packs a punch when both parties involved offer their perspective. One thing I feel is lacking in the Judgment of Six series is the man’s point of view. Getting inside the guy’s head adds tension and ups the intensity of the passion.

In fact, I liked imagining Gabby’s responses as I read Clay’s story. It was easier for me to do this than it had been to guess at Clay’s feelings while reading Gabby’s story.

Most of what Gabby assumed Clay was thinking and feeling was totally off base. That made me smile more times than I can count.

Clay wears his wolf skin for much of the book. It was interesting to get inside that head. After all, he wasn’t a pet, but Rachel treated him like one. And he didn’t care for that. I wouldn’t either.

I didn’t feel as much sexual tension in this book, which is good since it is marketed as a Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Gabby and Clay have the chastest relationship in this series, so I would recommend it to younger readers.

I’ve had a crush on Clay since reading the first book. He is the epitome of the strong, silent type of man, and it was interesting to really get to know him.

By the way, he isn’t as easy going as you might have first suspected.

It was good to see how he pursued Gabby in those hours when he wore his human skin and worked at the auto shop, went shopping, fixed things and cooked for her. He wanted to be the man she needed – and that’s very romantic.

What I wasn’t so keen about

I know Ms. Haag wants to tell all the boys’ stories using these companion books. I think they are slated to be novellas. I wasn’t all that thrilled to revisit the same story – even though it was from a different perspective.

Romances are best when we see both sides. For that reason, I think she should have sprinkled alternating chapters from the man’s perspective in the Judgment books. When she repeats the story line, I feel like I’m paying for the same story twice (of course, when the companion only costs 99 cents, that’s not a huge burden).

I laughed out loud and devoured this book in mere hours. I truly enjoyed it. It would have been even better if I could have read it alongside Gabby’s story.

My recommendation

If you have read Hope(less), don’t reread it before picking up Clay’s story. I almost did this, and after reading Clay’s Hope in a single day, I’m glad I viewed it through fresh eyes.

I know this sounds like I’m contradicting what I said earlier. The original story would have been more intense if both viewpoints were included. To understand what’s happening in the overall story, you only need to read either Clay’s Hope or Hope(less).

If you are crushing on Clay (like me), you should definitely read this story. It will give you a clearer picture of who he was. However, if you like the mystery man you got to know in Hope(less), he will be replaced by the real Clay after you read this story.

Consider yourself warned.

Eye of the Soul

Fantasy novels entice me. As you know, I’ve learned that novels of epic scope aren’t really my cup of coffee. Novels with an epic premise or story? That would be Eye of the Soul by Terri Rochenski.

I was introduced to the writing of Rochenski through an anthology I bought to support one of my writer friends. You can check it out here. Since that time, I’ve been following the publisher, J. Taylor Publishing, on Facebook.

When they posted that the first book in a series would be FREE to celebrate the release of the second book in the series, you know what happened. I clicked the link. Amazon offered its wonderful “Buy now with 1-click” option and another book added itself to the ever-expanding queue.

Not every book in that queue will be read by me. Several I snagged for FREE weren’t worth the price I paid for them.

Not so with Eye of the Soul.

The Blurb

Copied from Goodreads:

“Escape.

That should be Hyla’s first thought as her people are chained and imprisoned for no imaginable reason. Instead, Hyla finds herself traveling through a land void of Natives, with human soldiers pillaging in desperate pursuit of her, and in search of the mystical Pool of Souls—home to the one man who can save her people.

Or so she believes.

Led by her faith in the deity Fadir, Hyla is met along her journey by Jadon—a human male and fierce King’s warrior, and his childhood best friend Conlin—one of the few Natives aware of his Fadir-given Talents. Protected by Jadon, guided by Conlin, and with an unfailing belief in the purpose of her pilgrimage, Hyla carries on.

Like her, though, another searches for the Pool, and should he gain access first, everyone she loves, and everything she knows, could be lost.

Forever.”

My Review

The novel opens with the capture of Natives by an ambitious High Priest. The Natives appear as elves in my mind – fair skin, pointed ears, (supposed) mystical abilities. I liked that Rochenski uses a different name for them, leaving her plenty of space to conform them to the story she’s telling.

Hyla, a nineteen-year-old orphan, is away collecting roots and herbs for the healers when the attack comes. Right away, we see she is fearful, which makes the reader wonder why. That backstory is sprinkled in at all the right moments.

Through a number of narrators, the story unfolds. A High Priest with a vendetta against the deity of the Natives emerges as the villain. We want to hate him; his despicable misuse of power and authority begs it. Yet, we see he has a secret past – a motivation not unlike that of Mr. Freeze (of Batman fame).

Jadon and Conlin enter the story as childhood friends who share the spotlight as the male heroes in the story. They are like night and day, but their camaraderie and realistic interactions pull the reader further in to this fictional realm.

Hyla’s Talent (mystical power) is the only one that isn’t dormant as the story opens. And she resents it because it shows her the true intentions behind every word and deed. It’s a curse, and she doesn’t understand why the king and others want to use it. How can it help win a war?

In a dream, she is called to the Pool of Souls. When the High Priest discovers its location, he sends his own combined group of soldiers and gifted (but unawakened – so he believes) Natives.

Conflict unfolds and the course is clear. Who will make it to the Pool? What does the Pool actually do? Will Hyla accept her calling? And, will she choose Conlin or Jadon?

The characters are well-formed and realistic.  Although the motivations of some of them are unclear or questionable, most of them acted and reacted consistently. Intrigue surrounds the powers of a few “non-Native” people in the story: where did their powers come from? Why do humans have these “gifts”?

The problem is straight-forward and the plot un-convoluted. We know the goals of the characters and, except where they are keeping a secret, we understand what motivates them. This is by no means a simple story, it is just easy to follow. Rather than shrouding information, the author shares it – to the end that it creates more questions and adds tension.

My Recommendation

This story gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. It took me awhile to decide I liked Hyla – needed to understand what made her so mistrustful. Although Jadon is likeable, he seems rather stereotypical. If it weren’t for his friendship and interaction with Conlin, I might have written him off as an egotistical, womanizing jerk.

Give these characters the chance to grow on you, and you won’t be disappointed. Nothing about the story line or premise (racial discrimination, anti-religion and revolutionary tendencies) disappoints.

This is the first book in a series. I’m delighted to meet these characters again. I’m also thrilled that Rochenski handled the story in the proper way: one problem for this book is tackled and resolved, while the larger series problem is clear but still hangs overhead at the end of the book.

The epilogue introduces a new twist and creates immediate anxiety because it pushes one of the heroes into the line of fire. This is a great way to encourage readers to put down book one with the left hand and pick up book two with the right. It was added to my Amazon wish list with a single click, and you’ll see it on my Goodreads “TBR” list, as well.

If you like magic, sword fighting and quests, this is a book you’ll want to read. Whether you’re looking for a great story or a deep story, Eye of the Soul grants your wish.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Travel through a magical portal in Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

I picked up book one in The Grimoire Saga in the usual way – it was a free book from the eBook newsletter delivered to my email inbox on a daily basis. Since it is a young adult fantasy, it adheres to the primary requirement for my reading list: genre I write.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

When Kara Magari uncovers a secret door in the middle of the forest, she discovers (and trips through) a portal to a hidden world full of terrifying things: Ourea. She just wants to go home, but the natives have other plans for her. She clashes with immortal shapeshifters, is carried off by a dragon, nearly dies on several occasions, and somehow becomes the master of an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire. Every time she thinks she’s safe, her new “friends” show their true colors.

Kara needs an ally, or she might not survive Ourea’s monsters. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this stranded girl, there’s something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

This book served me well on the treadmill. Except to finish it out, I only read it during that 40 minute span. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I am reading other books and pursuing a daily writing goal, as well.

The description in the first few pages pulled me into the story immediately. In fact, I still need to return to those early passages and copy some of the text into my writer’s notebook. Both setting and character felt real from the very first page.

The premise of a magical portal and a magical book have been done countless times. I enjoyed the idea of the Vagabond as an independent agent seeking the well-being of all inhabitants of Ourea. I’m still not sure how (or even if) the original Vagabond attempted this, nor do I have a grasp on how Kara will pursue it.

The romance between Kara and Braeden plays a very minor role in this first book. Their attraction is obvious. I like the idea of their friendship developing further before they experiment with any romantic feelings.

Tons of different creatures are introduced in the world of Ourea, which kept me engaged. Of course, there were a few old standards, as well, but their roles weren’t emphasized the way the yakona, isen and muses were. Intrigued. Get the book here.

I enjoyed the characters, but I felt this book served more as an introduction to the series rather than a story with its own problem and resolution. Kara has a clear character arc and grows from the troubled college student at the beginning to a committed Vagabond in the end. Somehow she has determined she knows more than the first Vagabond, which I believe is a mistake on her part and not necessarily in character.

The stakes for the series are high. I have predictions about things I think will happen next. Once my “to be read” pile diminishes, there is a good chance I will pick up the next installment in the series. I like the characters and the idea of a magical world joined to ours with magical gates intrigues the writer and fantasy lover within me.

If you want to find a new series, you will enjoy this book as a foothold into a new world (and it’s free!) with more books waiting to be read in the wings. If you want a book that stands alone, it isn’t really this one. I’m sure the author enticed us in this way to sell us on the whole series. I balk at that. I believe every book must have its own story problem that is resolved at the end.

Have you read this book? Please chime in with your own thoughts. Discussing books is one of my favorite ways to spend my daily words!

What’s the point of a book review? And why you should leave one

Image from walkingtogetherministries.com

Reviewing books can be work, especially if you didn’t enjoy any aspect of the story. For authors, reviews build credibility or detract from it, depending on the contents, of course.

It’s no secret that this blog is about building my author platform. In fact, every aspect of my online presence feeds into that goal. Whether I’m on Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook, I’m spreading the wealth of my personality.

What to include in a review

I’ve read one line reviews that said “I loved the book and read it in one sitting.” That’s almost as helpful as “Don’t waste your time with this one. The author doesn’t know how to write.”

A review must include something to make it useful. Reviews are for both readers and authors. Readers want to know if the book is worth picking up, and authors want to know what resonated with their audience and what they might need to improve for the next book.

These one-liners don’t offer aid to either camp.

Readers want to know about:

  • The story. You don’t have to give anything away, but you can say whether it had conflict and held your interest
  • The characters. Did you like them or not? Did you feel like you knew them or not?
  • The audience. If a young adult novel appealed to an adult reader, that’s something to include. If a young adult novel seemed too graphic for that age group, let readers know.

Authors want to hear about:

  • Their plot – was it original? Did it hook you? Did it build to a sufficient resolution?
  • Their characters – could you relate to them? Did you hear individual voices? Did you feel their emotions?
  • Their writing – sometimes a style doesn’t appeal to you and that’s okay to mention as long as you give a reason. If there were catchy turns of phrases or original metaphors, the author wants you to include that detail.

I don’t know about most people, but whether or not I’m the author, I don’t care to see things about:

  • How many typos or grammar errors are in the book
  • Opinions that aren’t substantiated with a reason or two. “It was boring” should be “It didn’t hold my interest because the main character spent too much time moping around, internalizing. I kept waiting for something to happen.”
  • Mean-spirited comments of any nature. If you don’t agree with the theme of the book, that’s okay to say, but say it nicely. “Read like propaganda” isn’t as helpful as “I felt like the author was preaching their anti-government beliefs at me and it pushed me out of the story.”

Why you should leave a review

I think it’s appropriate to leave a review as often as you can. Most of my reviews aren’t more than five or six sentences. This can be helpful if you include information about the important elements mentioned above.

If you loved a book, leave a review. Make sure you include reasons why it affected you. “I couldn’t put it down” doesn’t make me want to pick it up.

If you were disappointed in one element of the story, but you enjoyed it as a whole, it’s important for the author that you leave a review. If you mention the area you felt the story was weak, the author has constructive criticism to use to improve future stories.

It’s essential to leave a review so other people receive guidance when they’re searching for something to read. You help other readers with every thorough review you write.

Authors want reviews because it shows their audience that the book is being read. Even if there are a few low reviews, if the average is four stars or above, people will pick it up.

When not to review

If you can’t think of anything positive to say about the book, don’t write a review.

I’ve heard people say you should never give less than four-star reviews. This is especially true of writers. That author will remember your low review and pay you back in kind once your book is published.

This seems shallow to me. If I’m so worried about getting a bad review that I don’t give honest feedback, who am I helping? No one, and I could be hurting myself. People know about me by checking out my bookshelves at Goodreads.

If you can’t give sound reasoning why a book fell flat for you, don’t leave a review.

I have given one two-star review and several three-star reviews. I gave my reasoning behind both of these (or didn’t do more than rate the book). I’m pretty sure my three-star review of a Salvatore book isn’t going to set the man on a path of vengeance.

I hope when I mentioned weak character motivation or a slow-moving plot, the reviews resonated with the author, and they make changes if more people say similar things.

Sometimes, a book just doesn’t connect with me and millions of others love it. Reading preference is as subjective a choosing an ice cream flavor.

What do you think? Are there other things that should be included in a review? Perhaps you disagree about my reasoning regarding not leaving a review. Let’s discuss it.