Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Positives about a Negative Review

For a new author a negative review can be a serious hit to one’s self-esteem. We all want people to like our work. After all, a writer’s work is a part of them and a negative opinion of their work can feel personal; especially when not all reviewers take a professional approach to writing their reviews. But, authors shouldn’t let individual reviews get them down. Instead Authors should try to look at the big picture. Bad reviews can be a good thing.

Having a few negative reviews is the best way to avoid more negative reviews, and here’s why.

I often make the decision of whether or not I will buy a book based on, not a good review, but a bad one. Often times a five star review tends to gush about how wonderful a book is and fails to tell you much information. On the flip side a one star review tends to complain about the book, but doesn’t offer much information either. Obviously a good reviewer can provide a well-rounded review for any star level, but for the majority of reviews I find the best ones to read are those that are 2, 3, and 4 stars. Those are the reviews where people actually tell you what they liked and what they didn’t. Now a four star review is still good, and even a three star review isn’t bad. It’s the two star reviews that I think can really hurt, but these are the ones that are going to help you find your target audience.

When you read a review, good or bad, you get a better sense of what the book is about. When it comes to reading a negative review you can gain insight into what may be a book’s flaws or annoyances. But, you’re not going to always agree with the person that wrote that review. Say someone gave a book a bad review because the book contained a love triangle and that reviewer is just sick of love triangles, but maybe you are crazy about them and are looking for a love triangle for your next read. Suddenly that bad review helped you purchase a book. Now, this is a really simple example, but the point is that what makes a book good or bad varies – at least to some degree- from person to person. What a bad review is going to do for you is, one give more insight into what your book is about, and two keep other people from reading it who agree with the bad review and would then in turn write you a bad review.

The goal isn’t to write a book that everyone is going to like, the goal is to write a book that you like and then to find the right audience for it. Authors need to keep in mind that everyone gets bad reviews, even bestselling authors. There’s no such thing as a perfect book, and everyone has a different opinion on what they like.

Authors should also remember that the ratings themselves are subjective as well. Even with Amazon and Goodreads giving a basis like “3 Stars = I liked it”, for us to make judgments from, we need to remember that “I liked it” still means something different from one person to the next. Two people may feel the exact same about the same book but have different concepts of their rating systems. To some 3 Stars or “I liked it” is a good rating, a book they “liked” is one they recommend. For others, like myself, 3 Stars isn’t that great of a rating. To me 3 Stars means that it may be well written, but is lacking something, or that maybe I can see why other people liked it, but it just wasn’t for me. If I liked a book I will typically give it 4 stars. I reserve 5 stars for books that completely blew me away, and 3 stars go to those books that were just alright. I rarely give a book 2 stars, and I don’t think I’ve ever given a book 1 star. Because of how I consider my ratings for me to get a 2 or 3 star review hits harder than it might for others.

Now, that doesn’t mean that authors should disregard all negative reviews. People will have different opinions on what they like in regard to content, but when it comes to quality almost everyone can agree that a well written and grammatically correct book is necessary for a good review. Authors should listen to the criticisms of their book and weigh them objectively to help improve their writing; they just shouldn’t let bad reviews get them down.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review for Promise by Kristie Cook

Well Developed Characters and Steamy Scenes:

4.5 Stars. This book opens with a lot of action, and it really sucked me in. I did feel a little like the very first scene of this book was a little disjointed from the rest of it; but, after reading the second book in this series it makes sense how it all fits together. The whole book has a very quick pace, which I enjoyed for the most part. Although at the beginning there were a few scenes that I wouldn't have minded if they'd been slowed down a bit.

Cook has wonderfully descriptive scenes, and fun sassy dialogue. I loved her main character Alexis. She is an introverted type, partly because of all the moving around she did as a kid. She never had time to make close friends. She also at times has low self-esteem, maybe again because she never had a chance to really connect with anyone, and maybe partly because of things she went through as a teen. Alexis has been an outcast, a freak, and rejected, and I found myself completely able to relate to her. And, she's got sass too. She's introverted but also independent and she channels her feelings into her writing. I liked that she had this talent; it made her feel like a very well rounded character. Also, she's not weak; she's a strong young woman. She just prefers to keep to herself.

There were times when I found Alexis a little too naive. I just wish she had explained better why she never looked deeper into what she was. Also, there were some things that were obvious to me, but she was completely oblivious to them. So, while I liked her character I felt she wasn't the most perceptive and that her lack of perception was somewhat unbelievable.

Tristan was also a wonderful character. From the very beginning I found him fascinating. He was confidant and very forward but also down-to-earth. However, he could be a little cheesy at times. For the most part I loved his character, but some of the things he said to Alexis, like constantly following up her name with "my love" was a little too much for me. I also hated that Alexis was always referring to Tristian as "yummy" or "delicious" as if she were eying up a candy bar. Despite these little annoyances however, their relationship really felt like it clicked to me. It felt real and felt like it truly grew. I believed Alexis when she said she was drawn to him and could feel that they were truly falling in love. I also liked that their relationship took time to develop.

This was a wonderful love story, and while there were also some unique ideas being used there were also defiantly some overdone plot devices as well. I can see why some people compared this to Twilight. Both Promise and Twilight are about this unyielding, forever love that two people experience, and they both involve supernatural creatures dealing with how to control and hide their powers. Because of this there are some similar themes between the books. But, I have to say, this book as a whole was very different from Twilight.

Also, I was bothered by the fact that some people didn't think this was YA, but that's mostly because I think a lot of people have a really screwed up definition of what YA stands for. YA - young ADULT. This book is not for kids. I would give it a 17+ rating because there are some really steamy scenes, but that's still YA for me. At 17 you're a young adult. And on that note, the romance in this was hot! (My thoughts on what it means to be a Young Adult)

One thing that was odd to me about this book was that Alexis wonders if her mother and Tristan will hook up. This just seems like a strange thing to wonder about your mother. Did her mother often date much younger men? Obviously as we learn more about the nature of just what Alexis, Tristan and Sophia are this question isn't as weird, but in the beginning before Alexis knows what she is I find this to be an odd thought for her to have. Later it's also clear that she and her mom are very close, they are almost more like sisters or friends then mother and daughter, but I think at first this really threw me off.

Where I had some problems with this book was at the end. I liked the way the plot went, but the story lost me a little. I didn't feel Tristan's sacrifice, and I'm not sure I entirely understood his decision. He seemed to go off and walk right into exactly what they were avoiding. I just wish the ending had sucked me in a little more, but for whatever reason it didn't. All together though this was a great read and after finishing it I immediately picked up its sequel Purpose.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why we Love the Supernatural

Contemporary literature and Paranormal, or Fantasy novels often look at many of the same themes; the difference between the two being whether a story contains or lacks a supernatural element. So, I thought I’d look at what makes books that include otherworldly elements so popular.

Reasons we read supernatural stories:

Sean McGrath
Escape Reality: The thing that makes paranormal or fantasy novels so interesting is that they’re extra ordinary – a step outside of the normal. In a fantasy novel you have the ability to see things that aren’t possible in real life. Imaginations can run wild in a paranormal or fantasy novel. There are endless possibilities: A world without boundaries. In our everyday lives we deal with structure and rules. Fantasy novels break out of the routine to give us surprises and spontaneity.

Belief in the Extraordinary: Many of us like to think that there’s a bit of fantasy that exists in our own world. Whether it be that you believe in ghosts, or magic, miracles, or even just intuition, paranormal books help us to believe that maybe just a little piece of them really is real. We all want to believe in something, and fantasy books help up to keep hope alive that maybe there’s a little bit of magic in our own world.

Value the Ordinary: Seeing characters deal with life or death issues puts our own problems in their place. If so and so can save the world, well then I can pass my history exam on Friday. We like to read about epic quests and heroes battling immeasurable odds, because when they come out on top it makes us feel like we can conquer anything.

Symbolic Monsters: Real life problems can be symbolized by fantasy monsters. Stephen King once said, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” We all have our own inner demons that we battle with every day. We can relate with the monsters in supernatural stories because sometimes they are the personification of the things we feel inside.

Kick ass Action: There’s nothing that can amp up a fight scene better than having characters with super powers. Fantasy stories not only have characters whose strength and agility can exceed that of the typical human, but they might also have magical powers, or an ability to heal themselves. Supernatural stories have the ability to have some truly epic action.

There are many sub-genres of the supernatural, including Fantasy which includes stories about mythical lands and creatures and epic quests, Paranormal which includes stories about things such as ghosts or vampires, and Science fiction which may deal with outer space or experiments gone wrong. But, what they all have in common is that they are more than just make-believe. They represent our inner demons, display the extent of our imaginations, and provide an escape from the monotony of our lives. For those reasons stories of the supernatural are important, and that’s why we love them.

If you liked this post check out “Why we Love Vampires

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review for Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Fascinating Idea and Scenery, but Overtly Strong Feminist Ideals

3.5 Stars. When I started reading this book, I love it. It had action, fantasy and mystery. It’s set in a medieval like setting and had a fairly original concept dealing with its “graced” characters, or characters with special enhanced abilities. But, as it went on I felt like it was two stories that got mashed together, and by the end I had lost interest and stopped caring about the characters.

In the beginning when Po came into the story he was Katsa’s match, they were both graced and both perfect for one another – equals in strength and skill. Their relationship started out so wonderful. It had spark, and snark, and chemistry. But then I felt like they became friends too quickly and that spark turned amicable, and I found this a little boring. Conflict was later introduced again, but I wish that there had been more of it between them throughout. I also loved when Po told Katsa that he’d give himself to her however she would take him, but then I was disappointed that it took so little time for them to hook up. The suspense had little time to build and then was lost completely. By the time I got halfway through this book I felt like any piece of the plot that revolved around Katsa and Po was resolved and thus there was little reason to continue on.

Part of this book is a love story between Kasta and Po, and the other part is a fantasy quest with Katsa and Bitterblue. I feel like I would have liked it better had it been one or the other, especially because the angst and sexual tension that were building between Kasta and Po at the beginning was entertaining. But, it wasn’t completely fleshed out and was resolved far too quickly. It left me wanting and feeling like the second half of the book was restarting with a new story that slowed things down because it was completely different from how it started. After the halfway point of this novel I felt like almost all of the questions I had, all of the mystery, had been resolved and then for the next 30% of the book things slowed down as you see some really awesome locations, but many of them we only get to see as Katsa is moving through them where there’s little action. It was nothing more that Cashore telling us about this awesome world she created- which it is, but I could have done without that. The second half of the book lost the story for me.

In the second half this book becomes more of a quest and the characters change, but not in a way I liked. The relationship between Katsa and Po that I felt was even matched turned into Katsa being stronger than Po. She also held all control in their relationship telling Po that she may just leave one day. I understood her need for freedom, but healthy relationships should involve compromise and commitment which this lacked. It felt just a little to radically feminist as if Cashore was trying to make the point that women are better than men.

I’m all for strong female characters and I understood why Katsa was how she was, but there were parts of her personality that I had trouble relating with. I hated that she cut her hair off. I understand that it was practical, but this just bothered me. Kasta may not be a girly girl, but her hatred of wearing dresses, cutting off her hair, dislike of marriage and really anything considered a traditional female role, made it hard to find softness in her. I can understand her not wanting to get married, but she often looked at marriage as extremely oppressive of women and in a very negative light. To her being married meant to be a possession, and it made me feel like her opinion was rather biased. I felt too much like Cashore was trying to make a point with Katsa and that her character lacked some development because of it. I will say, Katsa’s relationships with the men around her, particularly Po helped make her feel real, but I felt like they were somewhat glossed over and rushed through.

There is a definite theme of wanting to protect young girls from being forced to do something against their will. Cashore looks at power and control and how these things change who we are. This theme is repeated with the king’s daughters who Randa sends Katsa to force one of which to marry, with Katsa herself and dealing with Randa’s control, with the servant girl in the tavern, and then of course with Bitterblue and Katsa’s dealing with Leck in the end. I didn’t mind the theme, but I felt that it was a little strong.

In the end, I enjoyed Katsa and Po’s reunion but the few questions I had left such as, what did Leck want with Bitterblue, and why were there cut up animals and children dying, were still unanswered. I get that there’s another book and guess that this will be answered then, but all my other questions were answered before I was even halfway finished with this book. So, this was the only question that kept me reading, and then not having it answered left me feeling frustrated.

Overall, I think there is an audience for this book but I’m not it. If you like that stronger, feminist, ‘women are better than men’ kind of characters you will relate to Katsa, but I didn’t. Also, if you like books about quests and don’t need the suspense of romance to carry you through a novel, you might enjoy the second half of this book more than me. There is some good writing here, and a wonderful idea, but it wasn’t for me.

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