4 Reasons Why I Write Book Reviews

I know, it’s terribly unpopular for authors to write book reviews right now, particularly if the review isn’t favorable.

open old book, a rose in a vase and a feather
Except if you’re an author.

I’ve chosen to write a few reviews anyway, and here are four reasons why.

 

1. I Accept my Limitations

A no point am I going to claim to be an expert. I don’t assign stars, because I don’t feel qualified to do that. I will also not be like Gottlieb at the New York Times reviewing books I don’t love in a genre I don’t love.

I love romance novels, sci fiction and fantasy novels, and books with strong female leads. Because I love them, I feel like I try to give them all a fair shake within the confines of what one expects from the genre.

I don’t review horror books or thrillers or a slew of others because I, personally, don’t love them.

 

2. Validity of Review Process

If I only ever write good things in book reviews, you won’t trust me. My goal is to give a balance interpretation through the lens of my experience. Your interpretation could always vary.  For example, the book North of Need had a few triggers for me. The set-up for the story had the feel of a horror novel to me (being trapped in a snowstorm with a stranger who is much bigger and stronger). Others, didn’t find this triggering. If you didn’t, you might like it more than me.

fairbookreviewmeme
Emphasis on fair.

 

3.  I Learn Something When I Write Them

Sometimes it’s something about myself. Like, I have stranger danger even as an adult. Sometimes, I learn more about story structure.

I love Lisa Kleypas as a romance author. There’s a reason why she’s one of the top names in historical romance. Her characters actually have character (something you don’t always find in romance). She lets women be friends, and sisters be sisters. It’s not all convoluted jealousy that I see too often. Her steamy scenes are very good, and her descriptions are amazing without using tired cliches. Like I said, she’s one of the best. By reading her and studying what I like, I learn a little more. Both for my own work, but also what to look for when selecting a new book.

Same is true of books I don’t like. I can learn a lot about plot and character development by figuring out why I don’t like something. After reading Lisa Kleypas, picking up another author that had every woman jealous of every other woman really brought to light how much I dislike that.

 

4. I Never Post to Amazon

As a fellow author, I don’t post my reviews on Amazon. Partly, because this is against Amazon’s terms and conditions, but more because I don’t ever want a review to be taken as an “attack” against another author.

bad-book-review-meme
A reason to not give a bad review. Unless you’re a certain kind of romance writer.

Honestly, there are times I wish I could call some of the authors and tell them I like their work, but I’d love it if they could fix a few things. Do they want me to beta read for them?

Hubris, clearly, but in my opinion, book like the Queen of Swords could’ve been spectacular instead of just good with a bit of revision. This takes me back to Point 3. I learned a lot by reading Queen of Swords. More than I learned reading all of Lisa Kleypas’s books, probably because she makes it look so effortless.

 

How about you? Do you write book reviews on Amazon, knowing writers need them to succeed? Do you only ever write positive reviews?

Book Review: Queen of Swords

Book: Queen of Swords

Author: Katee Roberts

Recommendation: Worth a Read

QueenofSwords

Not sure I’m any more qualified than the next person to leave a review, but I’ll try to give it a shot with a book I recently finished.

No-Spoilers

All in, this sci-fi romance was a decent read.

World-Building

The world-building is spectacular. Seriously, this is by far the best part of the book. The world, the religions, the people. The aliens are truly alien. For example, I love how you can tell one alien’s feelings from how his fur shifts. These are not humans with pointed ears.

The author uses a Tarot deck throughout, and she seems to have really studied up on it. I also love how the force acting through the cars is simply the Lady. You decide if she’s a goddess or Lady Luck.

Sanctify makes a fabulous villain, and the torture techniques they use to “purify” are truly gruesome. Seriously bad villain.

 

Hero and Heroine

The hero and heroine have chemistry. The steamy scenes aren’t memorable, but they’re pretty good.

He’s been through hell and back, though he’s still clearly your protective alpha male. I liked him much more than I thought I would.

The heroine is not a damsel in distress. She is strong, competent, and feisty. Hellcat is used to describe her. More than this, I like the fact she’s comfortable with her sexuality, knows what she wants, and takes it.

 

Story

The plot intrigued me once we got over some plot holes large enough to drive car through trying to get the characters in a situation where they’re stuck together, but I was ready for the author to get on with it around the three-quarter mark. I felt like some of the middle was go-nowhere-filler as we ramped up for the climactic showdown between the hero and his half-brother.

The writing is a bit clumsy at points, particularly in the beginning as the author sets up the entire story line and gets the hero and heroine stuck being together. Sadly, this extends to the smack-upside-the-head way that the author introduces that the heroine is pregnant. Other parts, such as the heroine being able to hack a com terminal, should have been discussed before she actually hacks it.

This is all the more strange as other times the author makes a big deal out of things like sharp sticks being used in the heroine’s hair that never have any purpose.

I was disappointed with the end. I was expecting so much more. The big climactic ending. The heroine and hero standing up and defeating impossible odds together. While we got a happily-ever-after, I didn’t feel that fist pump moment when the hero and heroine win.

As a matter-of-fact, I was really disappointed with how easy the whole ending was and how little the heroine figured into it. I still don’t understand why the hero didn’t do what he did years ago and end the threat his brother posed back then.

The ending also left certain things unresolved. Either the author didn’t tie up loose ends, or she left them loose for the next book in the series. That seriously irritates me. Still, this is a romance, so the hero and heroine do get together.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: North of Need

Book: North of Need

Author: Laura Kaye

Status: Did Not Finish (DNF)

NorthofNeed

I normally wouldn’t post this, but as Ms. Kaye is already a NYT bestselling author, I’m not really hurting her any by not liking a book. I found the book from a very popular romance blog, and they liked it, so it could just be me that didn’t care for it.

I was looking for a nice Christmas romance to distract me from a rough patch at work. I so wanted to love this book as the premise sounded cool. I got to the 40% mark on my Kindle and decided I was done.

The premise is cool, but the author didn’t do it justice.

I figured it would be worth discussing what made me stop reading. Perhaps it won’t bother you, and you’ll love the book.

There were really three things that made me stop:

1.  Unrealistic Characters – The characters, frankly, were unrealistic. The heroine was a widow, and her grief was real and raw. I bought that. At no point did I really buy her connection to the hero. This is a romance novel, and that’s a must for me.

I gotta tell you, the heroine got over her fear and terror of a strange man far too quickly.  The author needed to work for this and didn’t. Seriously, if I give a stranger sanctuary in my house from a snow storm, then find him sleeping on my bedroom floor, holding my hand when I wake up, my response is not going to be to find it comforting.

The hero was already in love with the heroine before they met. Sure, the author has reasons for this, but I’d way have rather he fell in love with her on his own. Especially as I found those reasons a little creepy.

 

2. Where’s the Plot? – At the 40% point, there is absolutely no reason for the characters not to be together. The author has already given away all of the cool mystery surrounding the plot. Which was cool, but the execution of explaining it to us the reader was awful. Rather than dumping it on our laps through exposition, this could’ve been unfolded slowly through the story, used to add tension and drama as the characters come together.

Instead, we’re literally told why the hero loves her and why he agreed to this “mission”. We know the heroine lusts for the hero. Only thing keeping them apart is maybe her grief for her lost husband, but as we get direct permission from the great beyond by the 40% mark that the dead husband is okay with it, things seem resolved to me.

 

3. Weak Writing – After unbelievable characters and a missing plot, the prose itself follows suit. We have abrupt transitions, no real scene setting, and no real pacing. Not surprising, I suppose, as there isn’t much of plot.

 

All in, the only thing that might recommend this book is if you are actually a widow or widower. Perhaps then things will mean more to you. While the story is definitely a tear-jerker around the heroine being widowed and all she’s going through, I just can’t get through the rest of it to finish. As far as I’m concerned, we already have a happily-ever-after at the 40% mark, and that saves me from having to read the rest of it.

Book Review: Her Viken Mates

Book: Her Viken Mates

Author: Grace Goodwin

Viken

This is not my normal reading fare, as you may have noticed from my other book reviews. I am not entirely sure why I picked it up.

Okay, that’s not true. I do know. It was curiosity, plain and simple. It appeared in my Amazon feed, and while I was intrigued, but didn’t buy it. The book then intruded on my consciousnesses during my drive home, and as I had some digital credit with Amazon, I decided to give in to temptation and see what it was all about.

 

Characters

These are flat, one dimensional characters. Expect no growth because you’re not going to get any.

 

Plot

There was one. Somewhere. But it’s even less important than most other romance novels I’ve read. The plot is as one dimensional as the characters, and I’m actually somewhat surprised how contrived it was. I was shocked how quickly characters believed a heroine from another planet who was there as an interstellar bride. There is no real reason for them to do that. Nor is there a reason that the villain would do what they did or give their hand away as they did. But, you know, plot wasn’t what this book was about.

 

Steamy Scenes

This is why you’re reading the book. The novel opens with steamy scenes, and the steamy bits probably take up at least 50% of the story, maybe more. It does include multiple lovers simultaneously, and I have never read anything like it, though I know this is not uncommon in romance. Just uncommon to me. As far as I can tell, the author handled it well.

 

Writing Style

While the writing was just okay, it was relatively free of grammatical and punctuation errors. It was also properly formatted to the Kindle. When she did a jump in PoV, which she did often, she used a new chapter and labeled the chapter with the person whose eyes you were now seeing through.

 

Themes

Despite the fact that this was really just an excuse for steamy scenes, there were some pretty interesting themes running through a book that was mostly steamy scenes. Issues of trust came up time and again, but more than just trust, it was also about consent. This played throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised by this. There was never even a hint of rape culture in the book, and while rushed, it did let the heroine explore her sexuality without guilt. Rather, her mates encouraged her to explore it.

 

 

 

Book Review: Nothing Like a Duke

BookNothing Like a Duke

Author: Jane Ashford

Status: Don’t bother.

This book was one in a series. It may have been better if I’d read the rest of the series, but I doubt it.

NothingLikeADuke

Premise: I’m sure there is a premise… Woman goes to a house party and the man she loves happens to be there, but she didn’t know he’d be there, and he didn’t know she’d be there. Yeah, I’m still not sure what the story was supposed to be about, and I read the book.

Plot: I couldn’t find one. The hero goes to a house party to forget the heroine for reasons. Didn’t read the other books, so I don’t know why. Heroine goes to the same house party for reasons. I never really figured out why she went. It’s not clear other than she wanted to see the ton, but why she does must’ve been in another book.

While nothing in this book was deep, the part that was very disturbing to me was the way the author treated PTSD. I don’t think she did any research on it, or if she did, it was very superficial.

  • The heroine was apparently captured, tied up, and helpless at one point in an earlier book.
  • We’re told this is a big deal toward the end of the book. We’re never shown her nightmares, her fear of men, her fear of being in tight places (which happens). Even her being caught in a brier bush is told to us from the hero rather than a very deep and dramatic scene for the heroine.
  • The “cure” for this was for her to be attempted to be raped by another man and for the heroine to escape on her own.

I know very little about PTSD. Maybe this would work, or maybe it would deepen her fears. I don’t know. But the way it was handled was not believable to me.

Romance: The hero, Robert, already loves the heroine, Flora, from another book. Flora also loves Robert and has no real reason not to want the romance to happen. I’m not sure why this book wasn’t over in less than 50 pages rather than the 352 it took.

Steamy Scenes: There were none. Not one. So this isn’t where the filler came from to get to the 352 pages.

Imagery: Nothing was ever really brought alive for me. Nothing felt sumptuous or beautiful. So, this isn’t what filled the 352 pages, either.

Characters: There is no character development. Robert starts out as Robert and ends as Robert. We’re told he’s celebrated by the ton, what all gentleman aspire to be. Perhaps we were *shown* that in previous books, but not this one.

Flora learns all people in the ton are people rather than caricatures, but that’s really not a lot of growth, either. We’re told Flora is smart so freaking many times I was ready to scream. And she’s beautiful. And she’s smart. And she’s charitable. And she’s smart.

One of the things I hated most about this book is that so much of it focused on a rivalry between the heroine and another female character over the hero. It started to boarder on the absurd, and frankly, I am tired of the trope. I prefer to see female friendships rather than competition over a man. It was such a blatant competition, the one woman literally called the other her competitor. Yuck.

 

All in, I’d rather do the dishes or vacuum than read this novel a second time.

Book Review: Mine Till Midnight

Title: Mine Till Midnight

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Status: Worth a Read

Mine

 

I listened to this as an audiobook rather than read it. I am still pretty new to listening to books, but I am starting to really like it. The experience is different, and while I still prefer to read rather than listen to books, this is a great way to get some “reading” in while doing boring tasks like cleaning the kitchen or weeding.

 

Summary: After the death of their parents, four sisters are dependent on their older brother who has a promising future as an architect. When the brother loses the woman he loves to scarlet fever, he becomes a self-destructive boar. This is compounded when the deaths of three distant family members drop a “cursed” title and admission to the peerage on this brother.  The story centers around the oldest sister, Amelia. She’s forgone marriage herself to see to her family, keep them together, and keep them safe. She encounters Rohan, the hero of the story, while rescuing her brother from a gaming club.

Plot: Plot is pretty sparse. It’s basically getting Amelia and Rohan together as she deals with the trials of her family. With a suicidal brother, a sister with weak lungs from her bought with scarlet fever, to a kleptomaniac sister, Amelia has her hands full. The fact that the estates that came with the title are falling apart, literally, doesn’t help. There’s enough going to keep the story moving forward and keep Amelia and Rohan together without feeling contrived. I don’t expect more, so this was fine with me.

Romance: It’s pretty standard that he falls in love with her, then must convince her that she wants to give up her independence to be his bride. He has a few issues along the way coming to terms with his feelings, giving up his own freedom as he feels tied down by her world, but he comes to terms with them. No real spoiler here as this is a romance novel, but he gets her to agree to marry him by the end of the book. Some of her objections in the last quarter of the book become annoying, and this was one of the only part that had me rolling my eyes.

Characters: Rohan is half gypsy, so this is a unique spin on any romance novel I’ve ever read. I can tell the author did research on the gypsy people of the time. Or if she didn’t, she faked it exceedingly well. Possibly helped by the fact that none of my history classes even touched on them. War of the Roses? Oh yes. Roma people? Not at all.

Rohan is your typical physically powerful very rich male lead. But the fact that he’s an outcast for his mixed heritage adds a different flavor.

Amelia is your standard pretty spinster heroine who has put independence and siblings first. If you’ve ever dealt with difficult or unruly children, you’ll feel for her. She has personality, but not nearly as interesting as Rohan.

One thing I loved about this book was that woman are shown as friends. The Countess of Westcliff is kind and understanding. As is Lady St. Augustine. So many authors, far too many, in my opinion, show other women as rivals. They discard all notions of female friendship and focus on a very unhealthy rivalry. Always over a man. This author did NOT do that, and I very much appreciated it.

The sisters were kind and snarky to each other, as sisters will be.

Steamy Scenes: These are quite good. Very good. Some worth rereading. This is one of the author’s big strengths.

Use of Imagery: This is amazing. Her descriptive prowess is excellent, and she does it succinctly using terrific metaphors and similes I don’t usually here. She makes things feel sumptuous and sensual. This is a huge strength for this author.

 

All in, this is a good read from an author I had written off after not being able to get through more than a chapter or two of another one of her books. Makes a case for giving an author a second chance. And I never would have if I hadn’t been able to get her audiobooks from the library.