the Little Red Reviewer

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When I pick up a book, I really do pick it up with the intent of finishing it.  But these last 10 days or so, I’ve been having trouble sticking with any one book. I’ll pick something up, read half of it, pick something else up, read 20 pages, pick up an anthology and read two stories…. we’ve all been there. I can’t seem to stick with anything! Years ago, when asked “how do you decide what to read?”, my friend nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness said she puts a ton of interesting looking books in a comfy reading spot, reads the first 40-50 pages of each one, sees which one grabs her attention, and then she puts the rest down guilt-free.

I took five books that have been sitting on my To Be Read stack, and did the same. I read 50 pages of each (or at least attempted to), and one or two really stood out as books that If i continue reading, I’m gonna finish.  the books were:

50 pages

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey – Thomas Dunne Books, June 2016

Way Down Dark by J.P Smythe – Quercus Books, Oct 2016

A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh – Quercus Books, April 2016

Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire by Joe R Lansdale – Subterranean Press, Nov 2016

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – Tor Books, May 2016

 

Well? How did it go? Did 5 books 50 pages help me figure out what to read next?  LOL, at least this is a spoiler free post, since the events I talk about in these books happen in the first 50 pages and I have no idea what happens next!

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Hey blogger buddies – do you write negative reviews? And what I mean by a negative review isn’t “this book sucks”, it’s “this book didn’t work for me and let me tell you why”. A well written negative review tells you just as much information about the book about a positive review. When I write critical / negative reviews, it’s mostly to talk about why I bounced off a book, or why I though the book was problematic. Oftentimes, it’s a book that the majority of readers really enjoyed, perhaps the book even won a ton of awards, but really, really didn’t work for me. Any of my friends will tell you I’m not the kind of person to sugar coat. If I think something didn’t work on some level, I’m going to say so. If I was offended by something, or thought it was boring, or thought the POV switches weren’t clear, I’m going to say so. If a book made me, personally, feel like the world of that book is not a world I would be welcome in, I’m going to say that too.

 

I do not write negative reviews to dig at an author, or to convince others not to read that author’s books. I need to make that clear: it is a negative review of a book, not of an author or of their career. In fact, I’ve had people respond to my negative reviews with “that sounds like a book I’d like!”

I’m interested to know if my peers write negative reviews, and how you think about those reviews, because I’m in the process of writing a negative review right now. Many people have praised this particular new-ish novel, but I’m finding it predictable, and with a plot that moves forward solely by the power of “because of course it is” combined with characters that do willfully dumb things. (which will be further explained in the review)

Ok, so sound off in the comments, because I wanna know:

Bloggers: Do you write negative reviews? It that a different reviewing process than when you write a glowing review?

Writers: how do you react when you become aware of a negative review of your work?

It’s extra fun being me, because not only do I write negative reviews, but I then run into those authors at SFF Conventions! Fun! And by fun I mean quite awkward.  Should “I’m going to meet this person!” affect how I review their books? Nope.

I’m terrible at watching TV.   I can barely remember what day of the week it is, let alone what time I’m supposed to turn on a specific channel.   Anyways, now that I watch a lot of shows streaming, I can watch them whenever I want, watch a few episodes in a row, watch favorite episodes over again. I feel like a commercial for Netflix.

 

Netflix doesn’t get a ton of brand new stuff, but they get a lot of good older stuff and  I recently discovered the TV show Lost.  This show ran from 2004 to 2010, and I remember hearing about it and people going crazy for it, but I never watched it when it was new. I still don’t know much about it.  I’m reluctant to look up information about the show online because I don’t want spoilers. LOL, I’m Mark Oshiro-ing Lost!

 

I’m about 10 episodes in, and I really dig this show!  For those of you who don’t know this show, it follows the survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island. They need to survive, find food, deal with medical crises, and deal with each other. Among our survivors is Charlie the drug addicted rock star, Jack the doctor, a woman named Kate who won’t tell anyone about her background, Sawyer the grifter, Claire the pregnant single mother, Sayid the Iraqi ex-military officer, a Korean couple who doesn’t speak English, and Mr. Locke, who appears to be a big game hunter.  The show has a huge cast, so the characters are introduced very slowly, often with long flashback scenes to tell viewers more about them. What’s neat is that nearly everyone is using this horrible event to start over in their lives. No one knows what the criminal did earlier in their life, so why should they tell anyone their secrets? No one knows that the guitar player is a depressed drug addict. No one knows that Locke the game hunter spent 4 years in a wheelchair.  Another survivor asks you what your name is, are you required to be truthful? No, you are not. Is this an island of liars? Maybe.

Jack, Kate, and Sawyer

Jack, Kate, and Sawyer

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I’ve been elsewhere!

I hosted my first roundtable at Semiotic Standard, about books we didn’t finish.  The roundtable features Lynn of Lynn’s Books, Lavie Tidhar, Jacob of Red Star Reviews, Teresa Frohock, Mark Lawrence, Charlotte Ashley, and more!  Come on over to see these folks and their peers didn’t finish books, and why I might not finish the book I’m reading right now.

 

I’m also over at Apex Magazine, interviewing the incredible Mary Pletsch.  In the interview we talk about the song and music in her short story Folk Hero.  but first, a quick aside.  Ya’ll know what iambic pentameter is, right?  the super simple definition of Iambic pentameter is that it is poetry (or song lyrics) written so that each line has 10 syllables, with every other syllable being stressed.  If you get the rhythms just right,  it fits perfectly into 4/4 rock and folk music.  So, I’m reading Pletsch’s story, and there are song lyrics embedded in the story.  And my brain doesn’t come up with a melody, but it does come up with a rhythm. A rhythm that matches the hauntingly beautiful Age of Aggression, as covered by Malukah.  Yes, that is a video game song, and YES, you should listen to it while you are reading Pletsch’s Folk Hero. here, I’ll help:

Folk Hero, by Mary Pletsch

Age of Aggression cover, by Malukah

I read that story, and I hear her sandstone voice singing that song, and it’s beautiful and fitting, and perfect.

oh, you liked that Malukah song?  this one is better.

 

so, that should keep you out of trouble for a few days.  I’ve got a review of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station publishing in a few days, so stay tuned (btw, it was AWESOME)

 

I did a mystery review last week.

 

I told you everything you needed to know about the book – what it was about, what I liked about it, etc – to help you make a decision as to if this was a book you’d enjoy.  It was fun writing the review, and I got a kick out of how people responded to a review that never mentioned the book’s title or author. Maybe I should make this a regular thing?

 

Ready to know what the title of the book is?

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This is a most unusual book review, because I am not going to tell you the name of this book, the name of the author, or the year the book was written.  You don’t get any cover art either.  We all judge books by their covers and all that, so I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts will be if I tell you everything you need to know about the book except what you’d see on a bookstore shelf. A deliberate experiment, if you will. And don’t worry, I’ll reveal the author and cover art in a few days.  For those of you who recognize this book, or think you do, please, please don’t reveal the book’s title in the comments.

 

Are any of you familiar with the anime TV shows Sword Art Online or  Log Horizon? In these shows, gamers get transported into the world of their MMO video game, and have to survive. This book has a similar, if simplified premise. A bunch of college kids are in a table-top Role Playing Game club, with a professor as their game master.  I won’t get into the how’s or why’s, but the professor is able to transport the students to the fantasy role playing world, and the students have to survive. What’s really neat here is that while everyone comes through into the fantasy world as their characters (a cleric, or dwarf, or thief,  etc) and with the skills and attributes (strength, speed, dexterity, etc) from their character sheet, they also retain all their knowledge and morals from the real world. One woman depends on her real world travel experiences to help her haggle with traders, there’s even some “innovative” WWF style fighting moves that no one else in the arena had ever seen.

 

At it’s heart, this is a coming-of-age fantasy quest story . The goal is to find the gate between worlds, so they can get home to the real world. But, as we learn, not everyone wants to go home.  Sure, home has modern dentistry, and cars, and our parents, and health insurance. But one guy, if he goes home, the only thing waiting for him is his wheelchair and people pitying him. Here, in the fantasy world, he can walk. He can do all the things he can’t do at home. Another character, this is the first time in his life he’s respected for his knowledge and abilities. If he goes home, it’s back to being the guy everyone makes fun of.   It was neat, how some characters abandon their real world  first names right away to only go by their fantasy role play character names, and how others never take on their characters names because they don’t want to be these fantasy world characters, and how others have an internal conflict as to who they are because they have a compelling reason to be a little bit of both.  The author presents the character’s inner conflicts with subtlety. The author doesn’t shy away from tough subjects either. Like another very popular series, main characters die – usually in shockingly awful ways.

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There was a neat panel at this year’s PenguiCon about author self promotion. I didn’t make it to the panel, but I wanted to, and I bet a lot of what I bring up in this blog post was mentioned there. Or at least I hope it was.

 

As a blogger, I’m on the receiving end of all that author self promotion. What authors put out there tends to end up in my inbox and in my twitter feed, and allows me to make a snap decision on if I’m going to give them 5 seconds, or a week of my life to read and then write an in depth review of their novel.

 

I’ve been blogging since mid 2010, and on twitter for about five years. I’ve seen plenty of author promotion – some of it effective, and some of it terrible.   Us blogger types can be harsher than slush readers and professional editors and publishers. At least those folks are obligated to read your first few hundred or few thousand words before deciding to read on.  I’ll be making a decision to interact with you (or not) based on the first few sentences of your first interaction with me.

 

(tl;dr:  do: be authentic and friendly . Don’t: be pushy)

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.