Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do we really pay attention to reviews?

Or maybe a better question for what I'm thinking is when should we put our faith in them.

Mostly, I check out reviews after I've read a book. I'll peek on Amazon and see how many others thought that it was the best story since the last one that totally captured my imagination, or how many also thought "I paid money for this?"

Recently, I've used reviews to sort of rank books. Having grown up with movie critics that rarely like the flicks I adore, but rather praise the sort of films I can barely sit through, I only take the opinions of those who have proven they have similar taste. Yet, since joining Facebook, I've got a To Be Read list a mile high. A bunch of writers friended me, and I'm pathological in wanting to support them. Reviews help me to put books in their place from "OMG, gotta read that right now!" to "How bad can it be? I'll get to it eventually."

Lynn Flewelling's fantasy has earned a permanent place at the top of my list. It's only through a combination of wanting to reread the Night Runner series before picking up the last installment and having so very many books on hand that I stumbled across Homophobic Content in 'Shadows Return' before I formed my own opinion. As it was, I stood in a bookstore, novel in hand, frozen with doubt. In the end, I bought the new (to me, at least) Keri Arthur book and a debut novel that had a blurb by Patricia Briggs (if Patty likes it, who am I to doubt?).

That review really threw me! My first reaction was anger; how could she?! Then denial; surely the reviewer misread! I looked for other reviews and found only the unhelpful from "you/your books are so great! (on the author's blog) to "yay, you get to read about the characters you love again!" (because...that wasn't implied by this being the next book in the series?).

So how much should this one review affect me? Flewelling has given me six fantastic books in two great series...should I deny my reading pleasure based on one person's opinion? Should I ignore the opinion and perhaps set myself up for bitter disappointment?

What would you do? How much attention do you pay to reviews?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Squee! I mean, go vote!

I went to bed with a total fangirl geeky grin last night. Not only did I have a full belly of Battlestar Galactica joy-joys from watching the marathon ending with the first show of the season, but I put off bed to cast my votes for the Urban Fantasy Readers Choice Awards. You should go do that, too, right after you read this.

So I'd voted for Chris Howard as my favorite debut, and then had to swing over here to grab my blog addy (it, like my cell phone number, is impossible for me to remember without aid) and who had posted a comment on my last entry? That's right. Squee!

....Now go vote!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Meme..and Stuff

This isn't supposed to be a meme kinda place, but I'm sitting here not (apparently) getting back to revisions, and this was just chillin' in my links ...

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open it to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Chris Howard's Seaborn was just a hair closer than Patricia Briggs's Iron Kissed : His jaw started working before he could get sound from his throat.

If I'd cheated, I could have offered up a nearby sentence with oozing blood. Oh,and since I'm here, I should talk about books!

It's too early into Seaborn--Chris Howard's book about two exiled ocean dwellers and the poor girl possessed by one of them--to give much of an opinion. So far, I'm enjoying it. The only drawback, which happens a lot in multi-POV stories, is I'm drawn to one character and want to rush through reading the other to get to her. I wouldn't change it, though. There's a certain value in the tapestry of story woven this way.

Speaking of difficult POVs, I've been trying to find just the right words to "review" (who am I kidding? I'm not a reviewer--I'm a fangirl who likes to babble about books) Will Shetterly's The Gospel of The Knife. This coming-of-age book of "magical realism"* is told in second person present tense, giving many readers the response of, Dude! What?

We're used to reading "I did" which makes us feel like the narrator is sharing their story with us, or "He did" giving us the sense that someone outside of the characters is telling us what happened to them. Stories using "I am doing" (like Ann Aguirre's Grimspace) are sort of like a patient under hypnosis reliving the story as she speaks it. And a lot of folks have reported taking issue with the use of first person present. Shetterly's use of "You are doing"--second person present--is damned uncomfortable at first.
I know from reading his blog that I am not the only person who read "You are..." and responded with, "No, I am not!" BUT once you get past any Choose Your Own Adventure prejudices, there is a really good story in there. OK, to be fair, there may be more prejudices to get over. Chris Nix is 14 year old boy in 1960's Florida. As an artistic young hippy, he doesn't fit in with the "straights"; still, somehow his liberal counter culture upbringing doesn't keep him from some pretty unenlightened thoughts when he meets a young black girl who clearly takes an interest in him.
Funny thing is, as much as that'll get the back up of certain readers (like, say, mine), it's one of the blessings of the book; there are no Mary Sue's here. There's a young man who discovers that he is going to inherit the earth, and who has to make some hard choices because of it.
Before I move on to from that to a young woman who has to save the earth, let me add that Shetterly says that anyone just starting to read his work should read Elsewhere or Dogland first as they're better. I don't know about better, but the former was a defining book in my life. I would say the difference is that I've revisited Elsewhere more often than I can count, whereas I imagine that if I reread Gospel again, once will be enough.

Now, saving the world (so you don't have to) is Phenomenal Girl 5 by A.J. Menden. Lainey--alias the title character--is a superhero. She's worked all her life to become a member of the Elite Hands of Justice, the best group of superheros there is. All she has to do is survive two years as apprentice to the Reincarnist...not a piece of cake.

I had a lot of fears about reading this book. A.J. Menden is also in Kelley Armstrong's Online Writers' Group, and not just a generic member of the OWG but rather someone who I've developed a cyber friendship with. What if I didn't like it? That was fairly likely since the book is considered "action romance" and we all know romance, generally, isn't for me. What if it were worse than not my cup of tea? What if it were one of those things that leaves the reader going, "Really? They published this?"

This book squashed all doubts.

Menden manages to tell a fun story without going campy. She tells a fun story with real seriousness and heart. Yeah, at one point, I cried. If you tell anyone, I'll deny it. But have I mentioned that this is a fun story?

*I nearly got derailed by looking for a quick definition of magical realism and how it differs from urban fantasy. More on this...eventually.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I've got a post in the cue waiting for me to edit it. Meanwhile, here's the link to the Fangs, Fur, & Fey thread on book sales. Great info for readers who want to keep their favorite writer's writing and fledgling authors wanting more info on the business side of our craft.