Book reviews: 52 Life Lessons from Les Misérables and Let There Be Light

52 Little Lessons from Les Misérables

This book is a mixed bag for me. I want to love it, and everything I usually rate would mean I love it. The introduction is well done, Bob Welch does a great job explaining his purpose and methodology, and the premise is a winner. I spent days in the basement of my childhood home, devouring a dusty library copy of the unabridged Les Misérables. (The unabridged version is worth the read, and it’s not the literary snob in me saying this. With the abridged, we get the familiar story and action most people have heard or seen in the musical and movies. With the unabridged, we get the whole setup for why and how.)

The life lessons from a narrative point in Les Misérables are well-chosen, if a bit cliched, and the examples from Welch’s real life give a folksy, down-to-earth application. As I said, I should love this book…but I don’t. Perhaps the error was mine in thinking a “52 Life Lessons” title would mean more than short and superficial messages. However, the richly detailed and nuanced introduction left me disappointed when the following chapters gave only an oversimplified message.

Perhaps this is what the target audience wants. For someone wanting short, to-the-point, and easy-to-understand chapters that can be read in any order, this could be a useful devotional. I did enjoy some of the chapters.

by Bob Welch

Let There Be Light

By Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Illustrated by Nancy Tillman

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s name on this cover commanded my attention, and I was eager to receive the book for review. It may be the small size and the board book version, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d anticipated. However, it would be difficult for any book to live up the expectations of Tutu’s name.

It’s a pleasant Christmas story that children will enjoy, and the message is certainly a good one.

(Books provided for review by BookLook, a subsidiary of HarperCollins.)

G is for Gifts, Simple

Connections

G is for Gifts. Not just any gifts, but Simple Gifts.

This is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever found. Allison Kraus and Yo Yo Ma, complete with gorgeous photos:

I’ve written about Simple Gifts before, including a few snippets:

The lyrics are here, although I use a slightly different version in the book.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

 

 

Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

Music. Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?

Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony. Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play. While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed. And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.

Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a friend, but also her potential soul mate?

For anyone who has read and reviewed Simple Gifts (or who does so now), I will send you a free copy of their short story sequel, “Complicated Gifts.” Please post a link to your review in the comments. 🙂
Offer is good through the end of the month!

Church of the Wooden Spoon

Church of the Wooden Spoon

So. I believe in lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness. In my dismay at the new laws allowing people to refuse service based on religious beliefs (which, as far as I can tell, do not exempt emergency service providers such as EMTs or firefighters), I felt dispirited. Disappointed. Sad for what this might mean for the future of our society.

I could complain about the laws, or I could do something instead. I may not have the legal or political clout to do something that way, but I’m a writer. I enjoy humor. So…in response to this law, I have founded a Church of the Wooden Spoon. I created it as a joke and added two people because Facebook doesn’t allow a group without members.

Within a few hours, the requests for membership starting coming in! So far, we are thirty-eight members strong and still growing. Find us on Facebook and ask to join! The first New Member Class will conclude at the end of today.

What? I’m not any crazier than the people passing these laws. 😀

So far, we have a few rules:

Rules of the Church of the Wooden Spoon (will be updated as necessary):

1. ‪#‎CabbageIsSexy‬
2. We are not celibate.
3. Traditional theology dictates that the edges of the wooden spoon must be rounded. However, a special task force is preparing a study on whether angled spoons (formerly known as spatulas and therefore heretics) may be accepted.
4. Wooden Spoon means WOODEN SPOON. No metal spoons, no spatulas, no silicone!
5. It is our sincere religious belief that the Wooden Spoon forbids us to have any business dealings with homophobes. Therefore, as a protected class under US law, we may refuse to serve homophobes in our daily lives.

We even have two prayers. One was composed in Latin by Emily Tilton:

O coclear fidele, tuum auxilium devote rogamus hodie, ut nates illorum qui flagellationem desiderent!

 

You’ll have to ask Emily what it means. 🙂

The prayer I composed is in English:

O Magnificent Spoon of Wonder
We give thanks to you and strive to honor you
Guide us and protect us, O Spoon,
That we may live in the glory of your ways.

Please don’t ask about the angled spoon debacle. We’re all reeling from the internal conflict. What? You insist on knowing? Okay, okay. Here is the public statement:

It is NOT true that the Church of the Wooden Spoon has splintered into a protest church, the Church of the Wooden Spatula. We at the Church of the Wooden Spoon are working hard to reach out to these lost sheep and bring them back into the fold.

I have commissioned a task force to prepare a statement on the Church of the Wooden Spoon’s position on the shape of the wooden spoon and whether angled edges will be accepted as orthodox.

Please, in times of founding a new church it is easy to get lost in divisive rhetoric. Let’s not get distracted by the little details and instead focus on the glory that is the Wooden Spoon.

We are a new church, and this was an enormous blow. The less said, the better. Even worse, we’re getting reports of publicly expressing love for riding crops, getting seduced by a traveling salesman to love an angled wooden spoon, and *gasp* attending the church of the SILICONE spoon!

The Holy Mistress is not pleased.

If you want to win a wooden spoon of your own, plus an autographed set of cooking chopsticks, visit Jessica Subject’s blog for a post on Hyunkyung Han’s Top 5 Favorite Spanking Implements!

Plus, check out this wonderful 5-star review for Living in Sin by Amy at Inked Rainbow Reads!

 

A Mother’s Secret (Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel) book review

 

  • Title: A Mother’s Secret
  • Author: Amy Clipston
  • Print length: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: June 3, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Rating:
  • 4 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
  • 3 gingersnaps for craft(2)
  • 5 gingersnaps for its handling of Christian themes(3)
  • Comprehensive score: 4 gingersnaps (recommended)

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The periphery details:

A Mother’s Secret is book two in Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel, a series of romances set in an Amish community. I did not read book one, and I was still able to enjoy this book as a stand-alone. The book also includes a glossary of terms used in the Amish community, a family tree, and a set of discussion questions.

The book:

(From the publisher)

 

Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother’s farm with her parents and her 15-year old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin’s father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her.

 

His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn’t convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter.

 

When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn’s brother. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance.

 

After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family—and the unconditional love—she’s longed for?

The positive:

The writing is more tell than show, Clipston relies heavily on cliches, and the paper-thin plot is no more than a series of romance novel tropes cobbled together. Still, the book is charming. In the world of Christian fiction, this is the equivalent of the new Avengers movie: you know you are being manipulated to cheer, but you do it anyway. Pleasant, formulaic, and inoffensive, this novel ends with a happily-ever-after that satisfies even if it is not quite earned.

By the end of page one, the reader knows exactly how the story will end. There are no surprises here, but Clipston makes the read a pleasant journey. If you want a family-friendly story as a diversion for a few hours, this is a sure bet. I enjoyed reading about a family that has its foibles but genuinely cares for each other. I rate this book four gingersnaps, not because the writing is outstanding, but because the book clearly defines its premise from page one and delivers exactly what it says it will. If you enjoy the first few pages of the ebook sample, you’ll like the book.

The not-so-positive:

While the Amish community Clipston researched may have a stylized, limited vocabulary and repeat the same words in every conversation, in a novel this reads as inferior writing and a distraction. In some places, it felt as if Clipston had to justify her glossary by repeating the same words as many times as possible.

While I enjoyed the sweetness of the romance (a few romantic touches at most), others might have difficulty with a subplot of chastising a teenage girl for talking with a boy. Still, given the context and acknowledgment by the girl’s father that he was too harsh, it works. Potential readers should be aware, though, that some of the patriarchal attitudes toward women and sexuality may not be their cup of tea.

 

 

 

Conclusion: A Mother’s Secret is a pleasant, formulaic read filled with cliches and feel-good moments. Recommended as a quick, light read.

  1. Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
  2. Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
  3. Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
    .
    Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.

Take This Cup (The Jerusalem Chronicles) book review

 

  • Title: Take This Cup
  • Author: Bodie and Brock Thoene
  • Print length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: March 25, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Rating:
  • 2 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
  • 3 gingersnaps for craft(2)
  • 4 gingersnaps for its handling of Christian themes(3)
  • Comprehensive score: 3 gingersnaps (average)

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The periphery details:

Bodie and Brock Thoene are two of my favorite authors of gripping Christian fiction. Their Zion Covenant series stands out as a testament to their ability to make memorizing Bible verses (specifically, verses of Isaiah) seem like a privilege won thanks to the death-defying adventures of our predecessors. I chose to review this book, despite it being the second in a series (and not having read the first) because I love their work.

The book:

(From the publisher)

Nehemiah, the young son of a Jewish woman, a weaver from Jerusalem, is born and raised among the Jews who didn’t return to Jerusalem from the Exile. Educated by Rabbi Kagba, one of the magi present at Jesus’ birth thirty years earlier, Nehemiah grows up with the expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. Could the Yeshua of Nazareth, who is walking the earth, reportedly doing miracles, be that Messiah?
When young Nehemiah must travel the long caravan road to Jerusalem, he is charged with an unusual mission—to carry a mysterious object back to the holy city of Jerusalem . . . an object whose reappearance heralds the Messiah’s arrival.Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem just as the final events of Jesus’ earthly ministry are coming to a climax: the Feast of Dedication, the Triumphal Entry, the last cleansing of the Temple, and culminating at the Last Supper in the Upper Room. Only Nehemiah understands the true sacrifice that is to come as he makes the cup worthy of his Savior.

The positive:

The Thoenes are able writers who spin a tale with skill. They dramatize the last few months of Jesus’ life as told through the eyes of a shepherd boy, along with dream cameo appearances by Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel.

There was a lovely scene between Joseph and Nehi, the shepherd boy, in which they talk about not losing hope.

The use of “Sparrows” for the homeless boys in Jerusalem was well done.

The not-so-positive:

I wanted to love this book. I really did, but it fell so flat that it took me two weeks to finish. I fell asleep for the first five or ten times I tried to read the book. I only managed to finish by using the text-to-speech feature on my Kindle and listening to large chunks of the book while ironing.

It took me most of the book to figure out why this book was dull, and I’ll list them here:

  • Nehi (Nehemiah), the shepherd boy, never does anything wrong and never experiences character growth.
  • The dream visions from Joseph were probably meant to be inspiring, but they felt too much like a deus ex machina to squeeze in narrative that Nehi could not have known.
  • The constant repetition of “This cup is an amazing treasure that will change history” felt forced and did not build a sense of awe and grandeur.
  • None of the characters experience growth or change.

If you want a dramatized version of the Bible verses, akin to a Passion Play, this is a nice (but wordy) way to imagine what it might be like to wave palm branches while shouting hosannas as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

If you want a well-crafted story that can stand on its own merits, this is not it.

Warning: Spoiler!

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.

.

 

I particularly objected to the miraculous reappearance of Nehi’s parents at the end, when they had been presumed dead for the bulk of the book. The book takes great pains to show how Nehi can identify with homeless orphan boys, only to throw him into the joyous arms of his parents a dozen chapters later. Considering the enormous drama involved in the Passion itself, this melodrama was unnecessary and cheapened the narrative. Children do lose their parents to early death, and false death came across as a way to play on the heartstrings of the reader and not because it made narrative sense.

 

Conclusion: Take This Cup gives a dramatized version of the Passion through the eyes of a young shepherd boy. Well-meaning but wordy and slow-moving.

  1. Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
  2. Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
  3. Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
    .
    Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.

Please Look After Mom book review and giveaway

If you haven’t yet read Kyung-Sook Shin’s international bestseller, Please Look After Mom, you’ve missed out. Published as Omma rul Put’akhae in Korea in 2008 and translated into English by Chi-Young Kim and re-published in 2011, Please Look After Mom is an unforgettable story of a family coming to terms with the loss of its mother. So-nyo Park, an elderly woman in poor health, gets lost in a crowded train station while going to visit her adult children and grandchildren with her husband. The novel is both an intimate portrait of one family’s tragedy and a metaphor for losing what was once dear. So-nyo is both literal mother and representation of a past that can never return. Stunning, moving, and well worth the read.

Warning. This book is not for you if:

You require a happily-ever-after ending and all plot points resolved in a nice, tidy bow.

You are intolerant of ambiguity and multiple possible interpretations of a story.

You need immediate answers to questions posed by the story.

You are unwilling to read a story told in the second person.

You expect all stories to follow a typical pattern.

You are unable to enjoy a book that is unfamiliar to you.

You dislike any fantastical elements in a story.

Still with us? Great! If so, read on. I will give a copy of this book to one random commenter on this review*. No hidden agenda here, just a deep love for the book and an eagerness to introduce it to new fans. Again, you will not enjoy this book if the above characteristics apply to you. Consider yourself warned!

First, the drawbacks. A few of the scenes were over the top, especially the one about the orphanage. I won’t give specifics to avoid giving spoilers, but the plot point fit too perfectly into a tear-jerker formula. For a book that brought me to tears with its understated prose elsewhere, the orphanage scene went too far. Also, some of the husband’s scenes became repetitive. He’s a jerk who took his wife for granted, and Shin establishes that early on.

The narrative about the oldest son is the only section written in third person. While this may have been an effort to show emotional distance, it seemed inconsistency rather than an artistic choice. In contrast, when the mother uses “I” for her narrative, it’s a clear and effective choice to change the tone of the story.

Other than these few points, Please Look After Mom is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I became so involved in the story that I searched book reviews to find out what happened to the mother. One of the reviews warned against reading spoilers and said the book should be savored slowly, learning details as the pages reveal them. I would give the same advice to anyone picking up this book. Do not read spoilers, or you will ruin the book for yourself. My only caveat would be not to expect a tidy, happy ending. As long as you’re willing to go where Shin leads you, this book will be well worth the read.

Why do I love this book so much? It’s difficult to explain without spoiling the plot, but there are two scenes that stand out. In one, So-nyo apologizes to her daughter for expressing dismay at the birth of her daughter’s third child. Through So-nyo’s perspective, we understand this dismay as a mother’s love wanting to protect her child from the sacrifices of raising three children.

In the other, So-nyo sinks into depression and finds comfort when she accidentally touches another woman’s mink coat. The softness soothes her. Without knowing the enormous cost of furs, she calls her recent college graduate daughter and asks for a mink coat as a gift. With only a small hesitation, the daughter agrees and arranges for a shopping date. When So-nyo’s daughter-in-law’s shock and envy at the new coat make So-nyo realize the cost, her daughter lashes out.

“It’s the first time Mom ever asked me to buy something for her! Stop it!” (p. 204)

Such a tiny scene, but the power ripples throughout the entire book. How many of us have known someone, mother or otherwise, who cared for us without asking anything in return? Even for those raised in abusive or neglectful environments, there is usually at least one person who makes an impact.

Please Look After Mom is a life-affirming read about the power of love.

 

 

*Anastasia Vitsky and Governing Ana have not received any compensation, financial or otherwise, to write this review or offer the giveaway.

Samantha Sanderson on the Scene book review

If you’re looking for the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia post for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, click here.

Because I have already reviewed the first book, Samantha Sanderson at the Movies, at length, you may want to read that review first.

  • Title: Samantha Sanderson on the Scene
  • Author: Robin Caroll
  • Print length: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz
  • Publication date: May 6, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Rating:
  • 2 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
  • 3 gingersnaps for craft(2)
  • 3 gingersnaps for its handling of Christian themes(3)
  • Comprehensive score: 2.5 gingersnaps (below average)

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The periphery details:

Same as the first book.

The book:

Sam Sanderson returns, this time in a bullying case. A girl at school receives notes calling her fat, and Sam gets help from her best friend Makayla to figure out who’s responsible.

The positive:

Finding quality Christian fiction for children is always a challenge, particularly fiction that doesn’t package a sermon in a flimsy disguise for a story. I appreciate the light hand Caroll takes in regards to Christianity, even if it gets lost underneath the heavy-handed “After-School Special” approach to bullying.

Without giving spoilers, I will say that the choice of “bad guy” was handled appropriately. There are no true villains in this story, which is a good message and good writing.

I also appreciate seeing fiction about Christian girls with positive role models and supportive parents.

This book’s mystery, the bullying of a schoolmate, is more plausible (than the first book in which Sam investigates a bombing) for a middle-school girl heroine.

 

The not-so-positive:

This book had the same issues as the first in regard to pacing. In fact, the book used exactly the same formula: opening mystery, multiple dead-end red herring trails, an abrupt resolution a few pages from the end of the book, and no consequences for any of Sam’s inappropriate behavior.

However, this book magnifies the flaw of the first one and adds another one. It’s an odd mixture of preaching about bullying and allowing its main character to flout ethics without consequences.

I was disturbed by Sam’s slap on the wrist followed by praise for confessing that she broke into an administrator’s computer. In the first book, Sam used her school newspaper blog to launch wild accusations at innocent adults without any consequences. In this book, Sam does confess and receive a token punishment (clean-up duty), but she receives many pats on the back for owning up to her mistake. I agree that fiction should depict real people, rather than a morality lesson, but Caroll takes such pains to reinforce the lesson (BULLYING IS BAD) that the contrast is unsettling.

What was worse, however, was Makayla’s gossip about students’ counseling files. Again, as in book one, Sam breaks rules in order to get information for her sleuthing. In the first book, Sam regularly eavesdropped and ended up getting her dad in trouble at work. In this book, she pressures a friend to break ethical rules about confidentiality. As an aside, why would a school allow a student to see confidential files, anyway? I would be very upset, as a student or a parent, if private details were shared without my permission.

What I found most disappointing about this book was its issues with superficial attempts to include diversity. Unlike the first book, that only mentioned “mocha” skin in passing and therefore rated only a small mark-down, this book tried to address race and failed. I beg of any author:

Write diversity well, or skip it entirely.

One of the worst lines of dialogue in the entire book is when Tam, an Asian character, says that she was bullied “about my Asian heritage.” Few adults of color would say that, let alone children. Honestly. What middle school student would talk this way, particularly an American child who is half Chinese? The line rings tone-deaf to the actual racism and bullying faced by children of color every day.

Makayla, who is this time identified as “African American” (but still portrayed as white on the book, this time with even lighter skin), is surprised when Sam informs her that bullying can take racial forms. I guarantee that if Makayla were an actual living middle school student, she would be the one teaching white Sam about racial bullying. I have never met a person of color who could not instantly come up with several instances of racially inappropriate behavior. Are they willing to share it with a white author gathering source material for her book? Most likely not.

I beg authors to either write racial diversity the real way or omit it. This kind of ethnocentrism is a poor message in applying Christianity to our day-to-day lives. Nearly thirty years ago, The Baby-Sitters Club mentioned its one member of color in passing as a token nod to diversity. Surely, in 2014, we have moved past this kind of superficial representation?

Lest this review come across as harsh, let me point out that I am critiquing this representation within its own context. I would not apply the same criteria to a book that never mentioned skin color of its characters, or a book that used some self-awareness about its superficiality regarding race.

(Bonus reading: “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” from the New York Times and “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature”, also from the New York Times)

Children of color are Christians, too. They deserve stories for and about them, not to be relegated as a white-washed sidekick who must be taught about racial bullying by the white protagonist.

 

Conclusion: Samantha Sanderson on the Scene offers a Christian-based story for white readers. Not recommended for children of color.

  1. Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
  2. Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
  3. Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
    .
    Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.

Grannies and apple turnovers! Plus meet Regann: reading and reviewing, part three

(This is part three in my series on reading and reviewing books. Please read parts one and two if you haven’t already. Thanks!)

Reading and Reviewing Part 1

Reading and Reviewing Part 2

Yesterday morning, armed with a brand-new food storage container filled with home-made apple turnovers, I popped into my church’s quilting session. I’ve never made apple turnovers before (or watched them being made), so I looked up ten different recipes online and cobbled together a plan. I used some regular bread dough instead of pastry (easier to work with and sturdier), sliced up a bagful of apples to simmer for filling, and learned by making a few mistakes.

One: cover the dough with a damp cloth while shaping the first turnovers, or the dough dries out. (I managed to salvage it with a bit of extra oil and a flick or two of water, but it was harder to shape.) Two: no matter how gross I find cornstarch (no rational reason for doing so, just an odd aversion), I should give a try rather than plain flour. My filling did thicken, but it didn’t have that lovely smooth texture of a proper pie filling. Three: Even if the recipe calls for one cup of brown sugar, don’t believe it. I reduced the sugar to two-thirds of a cup, but the filling was still too sweet. Four: Buy a silly pastry brush because doing an egg wash by hand (literally) is messy and goopy. (I debated between silicone and natural bristle pastry brushes, and I finally chose natural bristle because the silicone looked too stiff to use on fragile dough.)

How in the world do people roll out apple turnover dough and make them all the same? I know I could do it by using a round circle cutter, but that seems like cheating.

At any rate, I arrived with my armload of apple turnovers, afraid no one would like them. After all, who knows better how to make apple turnovers than a roomful of quilting grannies? 😀 However, they were all so warm, so welcoming, and so thrilled to have me join. When I hesitantly mentioned I had some apple turnovers to share for lunch (with many disclaimers about the funny sizes, funny shapes, and the first time attempting to make them), they said how nice it was. I wonder if they were thinking, “How cute, she did it all by herself!” *giggle* And…I did not bring a single turnover home. Every last one got eaten. Yay!

I knotted squares, ironed fabric, straightened thread spools, draped partially finished quilt tops over tables, and chattered with everyone. Gosh. It was my first time visiting (although I knew one woman from a Bible study, a few others because they are greeters, and two others knew me from handbell practice the night before), and everyone could not have been nicer. I’ll go back tomorrow, and this time I’ve been requested to make more goodies.

How to make Ana happy: Eat the food she makes for you, enjoy it, and ask for more.

I’m happy!

Best of all, the oldest granny of the group gave me a moment I treasured all the way home. She showed me how to use a measurement block to put my knots in the center of each square, and she gave me safety pins to mark each center before knotting. I chatted with her about everything from her daughter to cross-stitching to my position on coffee (don’t like it). We talked about the intricacies of “real” quilting (as opposed to the utility quilting we were doing, easy stuff meant to keep people warm rather than an art form in its own right), and I said I didn’t have the patience or spatially analytical mind to get all of the patterns right.

Ana: Is the quilting on ongoing project, or is it a one-time thing?

Granny: Ongoing. There’s another group making quilts for at-risk babies, and they take special orders.

Ana: Wow!

Granny: Those are beautiful.

Ana: They must be done by real quilters.

Granny: Oh, yes.

Ana: Do you do real quilting?

Granny: No! I don’t like all of the fussing.

Ana: Me, either. I never learned. It’s too complicated! My mom used to quilt, though.

Granny: Does your mom laugh a lot, like you?

It’s funny how the sweetest compliments are the ones people don’t realize are a compliment. This 95-year-old granny asked the question in passing, without special emphasis, and as part of continuing the conversation. Yet while I drove home from church, I played back that conversation in my head and blinked back a few tears. The image of a laughing self, someone who must have been raised by a mother who also liked to laugh, is not an image that resonates with my experience with my family. For this elderly woman to hold up that image of myself (albeit after only a few hours of working together), well..it was special. I want to be the sort of person who makes people think I was raised by a woman who loved to laugh. A few others made comments about my enthusiasm, my talent at picking up the handbells right away (gulp! not exactly!), and energy.

What a gift this granny gave me. All last night and this morning, I’ve thought about the effect of one small comment. Thinking about how the words I say can either tear down or build up those around me. Resolving to say more positive words and fewer words of complaint.

On that note, I’d like to introduce a reviewer who has always made an effort to be positive. Regann reviewed both The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus and Becoming Clissine: Bastia, Book One.  She earned my respect by writing an intelligent review of Becoming Clissine that demonstrated both respect and understanding of the book. Did she give it five stars? Nope. Did she give both the book and author respect? Absolutely. Let me repeat the review excerpt from the first post in this series, and put it in context:

This is a hard review to write because there were many aspects I liked and disliked about this book.  First, the synopsis captured my attention right away because I LOVE feminist dystopian novels and have read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Gate to Women’s Country. I also liked the concept of a matriarchal society where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is taboo and improper. But, this novel was nothing like I expected and the author succeeded in writing such a vivid, original, and unique universe instead of just a story.

Unfortunately this one almost became a DNF to me because I struggled with the age play content.  This is the first time I have encountered age play in a novel and it personally makes me uncomfortable.  However, reading is an experience and now from experience  I know that this type of content is now a hard limit for me.  Regardless, I enjoyed the core of the story and will pick up the next in the series. (For the rest of the review, please click here.)

These two paragraphs are a good example of Regann’s philosophy of reviewing and why she is respected as a reviewer. And now, let’s hear from Regann herself!

 

———

 

Hello and thank you for answering questions about reviewing F/F fiction! Please introduce yourself, the site you review for, and the types of books you usually review.

Hello! My name is Regann and I am a Midwestern twenty-something reader and blogger.  I started reviewing on Goodreads but had the desire to start a blog so I started Lipstick Lesbian Reviews http://www.lipsticklesbianreviews.com .  I review lesbian, F/F, and LGBT books primarily fiction.  I also review books that feature F/F dynamics but may not be fully F/F.

 

Why do you review F/F fiction? What appeals to you about this particular pairing?

 

Before Goodreads I had no idea there was such an overwhelming selection of lesbian / F/F books! Well first I enjoy F/F because I am a female who dates females 😉  Secondly I enjoy F/F because the dynamic between two females is beautiful, sensual, and there is a connection that cannot be mimicked in other pairings.

 

What do you find most challenging about writing a review?

 

Reviews usually flow for me since I write them right after I finish reading so everything is fresh in my mind.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to put into words the emotions or feelings I have after reading.

 

What kind of interaction do you wish from authors? Are you open to discussion with an author about your reviews, or do you prefer your review to stand on its own?

 

I review out of personal enjoyment and am by no means a professional or a critic.  My reviews are very subjective and my own thoughts.  I’m an honest person so I won’t sugarcoat a review but I would never bash a book either.  The interaction I primarily wish from authors is what a review is for: to find out what one reader thinks of their book.  I do enjoy open discussion with authors as well but don’t expect it either.  Simple things like retweeting my review or posting a comment makes my day so I’m a pretty easy blogger to please. 

 

What do you wish authors knew about reviews and reviewers? Specifically, what should authors avoid doing or be sure to do when interacting with reviewers?

 

My first thought about this question is I think authors should avoid seeing a 3 star as a bad review.  I’ve always thought a 3 star means the book was good, enjoyable, and recommendable- but maybe not going to be a re-read.  Books I rate 3 stars are ones I usually recommend to other readers who are looking for a certain read that maybe wasn’t my favorite of all time.  As a reader I am also more influenced by mid-level ratings than one star/5 star ratings. 

 

 

What is the worst example of author behavior you’ve seen in regards to a review? Feel free to change identifying details to protect the guilty!

 

I reviewed a book (not F/F or for my blog) and the author asked me to withhold my review if I didn’t give it a 4 or 5 stars.  I felt uncomfortable because the author didn’t share this before I read the book and I enjoyed it! I thought only having high ratings posted was misleading other readers.

How can authors best show appreciation for reviewers and encourage you to continue giving your services?

 

Authors showing anything is appreciated 🙂 Retweeting, leaving a quick comment, etc. are very simple ways that are nice to see once logging on.   I also feel very honored when an author asks me to review again as well. 

 

 

 

Tuesdays with Ana: Reviews, unfair reviews, and bad decisions–the case of Mirai Nagasu

When somebody freaks out publicly over one bad review, it just tells me that they have absolutely no confidence in the quality of their own work. Or, they’re an egomaniac who believes they can do no wrong.

-Peter Meyers

(Today marks part two of our discussion on reading and reviewing books. If you haven’t already, you may want to read last week’s discussion here.)

Since childhood, I’ve enjoyed watching Olympic figure skating. Okay, I’ve enjoyed watching women’s Olympic figure skating. 🙂 I took a lesson or two and learned that some enthusiasms are better for spectating than participating. The skaters on television could do intricate jumps while I struggled to steer while skating backward.

What that experience taught me, however, is that skating is a difficult sport requiring much skill, talent, and hard work. I loved Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas, Midori Ito, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, Ekaterina Gordeeva… Tara Lipinski’s jumps were amazing, but I liked the flowing elegance of Michelle Kwan.

Oh, and Nancy Kerrigan. Who could forget Nancy Kerrigan and the saga of the attack coordinated by Tonya Harding’s husband? Even if Nancy insulted a certain beloved mouse, I was captivated by her story just like so many others.

A few years ago, I was surprised by Yuna Kim when she broke scoring records. But, honestly, I haven’t thought much about figure skating since the last Olympics. Until my newsfeed began buzzing with the 20-year anniversary of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding (can it have been that long? Wow!) and the rejection of Mirai Nagasu for this year’s US Olympic team.

Disclaimer: I’d never heard of her before reading the news. However, the similarity of her name to my Mira made me take notice.

Mirai’s story in a nutshell: She won bronze in the US National Championships, but the US Olympic team-picking officials chose fourth-placing Ashley Wagner for the team instead. Read an excellent commentary here.

“It’s worth underscoring how significant this snub was: USFS has never in history ignored the results of the Nationals in picking its Olympic athletes when injury was not a factor.”

Even the most skeptical watcher of Mirai’s performance has to admit it’s a raw deal when you earn a spot, only for it to be taken away.

Through it all, although Mirai’s fans have become enraged, Mirai herself has let no word of bitterness or spite into the public sphere. (Are you paying attention, Richard Sherman?) Her public statement:

“I’m disappointed in the decision,” Nagasu said in a statement through U.S. Figure Skating. “Though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made.”

And she opted to skate, teary-eyed, in the closing gala of the championships even after receiving one of the most powerful snubs a skater can receive. Watch this performance. The cheers of the crowd’s standing ovation–before Mirai began to skate–brought tears to my eyes. In the face of a devastating, career-ending (at least the career she had prepared for), unfair decision, Mirai chose to show the world grace, class, and respect.

Wow.

Do you want to be more like Mirai? I sure do. We’ve all experienced unfairness in some way, and as authors it can be especially difficult to read unfair, mean-spirited, disrespectful, and even deliberately hurtful reviews. One reviewer said she’d like to bash my protagonist’s head in. Yep. Say you hate the book, but there’s no reason to get nasty. Say you thought the book was boring, too explicit, too fast-paced, or whatever you want–but say it with professionalism.

However, as Peter Meyers said in the quote at the beginning of this article, public meltdowns over a review–even if it is negative, unfair, or downright nasty–never accomplishes anything. Sometimes reviews are negative. Sometimes we wish reviewers could understand our work better.

Guess what? Not many reviewers care. Their job is to write an honest review to help other readers determine whether they want to read the book. Their job is not to act as a salesperson for our books.

For reviewers, and for readers who are considering writing a book review, consider this: you have a responsibility to be honest, yet respectful. If you don’t like a book (remember Jade’s review last week?), you have the right to write an honest review without receiving negative responses from the author.

However, on both sides of the equation, once a review is posted–let it be. Good or bad, a review is one opinion.

Tune in next time for more on reviewing on Tuesdays with Ana. 🙂

(P.S. Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, tweeted, shared, and posted about Mira’s Miracle! It’s made three Amazon Top 100 lists and is doing well. Thank you!)

——

And now, a word from our featured reviewer, Vanessa Clark from VC Erotica:

Hello and thank you for answering questions about reviewing F/F fiction! Please introduce yourself, the site you review for, and the types of books you usually review.

My name is Vanessa Clark but I go under my pen name, my initials, V.C. I review LGBT Erotica/Romance fiction on my blog http://vcerotica.blogspot.com/. I’m pretty open to reviewing all sorts of genres and pairings (M/M, F/F, MMF, FFM, trans*, intersex, etc. and contemporary, historical, science fiction, etc.) as long as it fits along the LGBT genre or spectrum.  The only types of books that I know for sure that I’m not a fan of are shifter stories and westerns. I tried, but after trying a few times, I’ve decided that I’d rather not read/review them. They’re just not my cup of tea. Paranormal is okay but I’ve yet to read a book from that genre that has blown me away, but I’m still open-minded to it.

Why do you review F/F fiction? What appeals to you about this particular pairing?

 

My first love was F/F fiction and the very first erotic short stories I ever written and had published were F/F.  I’ve always loved this pairing because I personally find it more exciting, adventurous, and open to more erotic and romantic possibilities that strays away from the predictability of other pairings. Not to mention, F/F intimacy is such a turn-on for me, not just literary-wise, but in real life too.

What do you find most challenging about writing a review?

 

Well, the purpose of a review is, in a way, like pitching a product, except that it is more based on an honest opinion rather than telling people what they want to hear. The most challenging thing sometimes is getting across to the readers as to why you think this book is great or this book is so-so.  That is why I often use examples so it’s made more clearly why I gave a book a certain rating. I’m not a fan of reading reviews that are too general and don’t give me the why to the opinion.  The more specific it is, the more helpful it will be for the reader to make the choice as to whether or not they should buy the book or not. It’s also about finding that balance of naming the positives of the book as well as the negative. Even a 4-5-star review should show some flaws of the book just the same as how a 1-3 star review should show some of the positives of the book too. That balance can sometimes be challenging, but I think it makes for a more well-rounded review, which makes that challenge so worth it.

What kind of interaction do you wish from authors? Are you open to discussion with an author about your reviews, or do you prefer your review to stand on its own?

 

Honestly, I prefer my reviews to stand on its own. What I say in my review is my honest opinion; what is there is all that I have to say about the book. Discussing the review, for me, would be somewhat redundant to me since I already said all that I needed to say. Authors, of course, can speak to me about what they thought of that review if they feel it necessary, but it won’t change my opinion on their book or have me take back what was written/posted. If the author chooses to have a discussion about it, I have nothing against that, but I’d rather let my review speak for me.

What do you wish authors knew about reviews and reviewers? Specifically, what should authors avoid doing or be sure to do when interacting with reviewers?

 

Frankly, I think authors forget that reviews aren’t about them or for them. Reviews are really meant to be for the reader, not for the author. It’s the readers who will read those reviews and it is them who will decide whether or not they want to buy the book based on the review(s). That or they write/read reviews to glow about the book or vent about it. Either way, reviews are for readers written by readers.

Authors should avoid taking reviews so personally and seriously, for their sanity. Read them if you must, but there’s no need to let it affect your entire ego and self-esteem. Readers have the right to voice their opinion on your book that they purchased. Not everyone is going to love your book. Not every rating is going to be a glowing 5-star one. Some people will adore your book, some will absolutely hate it. Get over it. And move on. Reviews are just opinions, not facts. If a review is a 1-star one or where the reader’s opinion is voiced very harshly, I think authors should avoid responding back to those negative reviews with even more negativity. I know 1-star reviews suck, but there’s no need to react to them as if it’s a personal attack on you. Lashing out with negativity or basically arguing with the reviewer is counterproductive. How is that helpful to you or for the reader/reviewer? It creates an unnecessary rift between you and the reader. This essentially makes the author look bad more than anything, really, and this can leave a sour taste in people’s mouths when they see it. For any reader to take the time to read/review your book, that should be respected even if their rating is not so glowing. I know some reviewers can be harsh, mean, or trollish, but again, don’t take it personally, and just move on. Respect on both sides is the key.  The best bet is to always respond back to any review/reviewer with kindness. It looks—and feels—better for everyone in the long run.

What is the worst example of author behavior you’ve seen in regards to a review? Feel free to change identifying details to protect the guilty!

 

The worst example I’ve seen was when the author (who shall not be named, not even with a fake name) responded back to my 3.5 star rating by lecturing to me about why they think their book is awesome and edgy and making assumptions about me that are far from true. Behavior like that makes the author look bad; it does absolutely nothing for me, and only has me not want to read any more works from them. That’s why respecting readers is a must. Just because that reader gave a 3.5 star rating or an even lower rating to your book doesn’t mean that they won’t be reading more works from you. Let them speak their mind and `move on. It’s not worth responding so negatively to a reader’s review if it means that you’ll be losing one reader, and possibly even more if it’s made public and others are reading it. To all authors (me included): be classy, stay cool, and keep writing.

How can authors best show appreciation for reviewers and encourage you to continue giving your services?

 

By simply liking my author page (https://www.facebook.com/vcerotica). It would even be more awesome if they followed my blog as well by clicking the “Join This Site” button. It’s always nice when an author shows support to a reviewer/blogger/author. The more supportive they are of my work, the more than likely that I’ll read/review more books from that particular author if they’d like me to read/review more works from them. I’m especially very open to doing that if I really enjoyed what I read/reviewed from them. It’s not that common, but it has happened.  Authors supporting authors and authors supporting reviewers, and vice versa, always amounts to more awesomeness for everyone; it’s an instant win-win.

Tuesdays with Ana: An introduction to reading and writing book reviews, Part One

Most of us have experienced book reviews, whether it’s reading or writing them. If we are looking for a good book, we might scan other readers’ reviews to decide if the book is worth buying. If we write reviews, we might worry about offending the author or experience negative responses for writing a critical review. If we are an author, we might feel frustrated when a reviewer posts comments that are harsh or unfair. If we are a new or aspiring author, we might feel confused trying to decide which criticism to take and which to ignore.

It’s complicated! Let’s talk about a few of these items, starting with the types of reviews and their purposes. I’ll share two examples of reviews, one positive and one negative. Later, I’ll share some responses from quite a few reviewers I’ve interviewed. I’ll also open discussion for questions and advice about reading and writing book reviews. Let’s get started! I’ll post some introductory thoughts today, and later I’ll post interviews with eight reviewers.

First, let’s begin with who I am: I am an author, and for that reason writing book reviews often means writing about my colleagues. Awkward, you say? Sometimes. 🙂 Writing reviews for other authors is a great service, but it can become problematic unless I write glowing comments. I write very few reviews, but that’s because I come from a different tradition of writing reviews. I believe that a detailed, intelligent critique is a compliment to the author. I also recognize that many authors want glowing reviews to help sell their books. Let’s be honest: I love getting glowing reviews that will help sell my books. Who doesn’t? 🙂 I’ll talk more about the different kinds of reviews and critiques later, but for now let me point out that different kinds of people write reviews for different purposes.

Here is an example of a review I wrote for Spanking Romance Reviews:

By Anastasia Vitsky

The first time I read Switch (The Trainer)Kate Richard’s newest book, I was incensed. The plot developments were unfair to the main character! How could he… how could she… it was an injustice!  Then I stepped back to evaluate my reaction. Emotional investment in characters is a sign of good writing, and this book made me care about its characters. For that accomplishment alone, Richards is to be commended. Switch brings readers into a world of sympathetic characters, believable conflict, and satisfying resolution. Along the way, we also enjoy some delightful spankings and sizzling sexual action.

The premise for Switch will resonate with many practitioners of DD (domestic discipline). The marriage flounders, communication fails, and both partners have become trapped by inflexible relationship patterns. In this case, Rick’s irresponsibility fuels Esme’s disappointment and lack of trust. They seek help from a character known as the “Trainer,” a DD consultant. As the Trainer teaches Rick how to spank Esme, the couple re-discovers the foundation of their marriage: love, a commitment to each other, and a scorching sexual chemistry.

Yet, rebuilding their marriage is not as easy as applying a chosen implement to the correct portion of Esme’s body. Rick and Esme rush into DD without considering its limitations. Their conflict and struggles are both poignant and real, recognizable to nearly every new practitioner of DD. Herein lies the secret strength of Switch: Richards helps us understand our own real-life relationships in a better way, and she packages everything in a shiny happily-ever-after. Life lessons with a finishing touch of sweetness.

Professional book reviews are often short, as in 250 words or shorter. (This review is 260 words.) A typical professional review contains a few main elements:

  • Introduction to the book’s context. Is the book paranormal, a romance, young adult fiction, or a thriller?
    From this review of Switch, the reader learns that the book is a romance, contains sexual content, has a happily-ever-after ending, and is about domestic discipline.
  • Introduction to the major characters and conflict of the book.
    Rick and Esme are a couple struggling with their marriage, and they use domestic discipline to try to solve it.
  • A personal response to the book.
    This book made me furious! However, I still recommend the book because it contains good writing and makes me care about the characters.
  • A take-away message for the reader, or the “So what?” element. Why should we care about the book? (Unless the review pans the book, and in that case we should see still see a take-away message.)
    We should care about this book because it helps us understand our own relationships.

A good review makes a claim about a book, and then the reviewer gives reasons to support that claim.

What if a reviewer hates the book? He or she still needs to support the claim, and in fact has a greater obligation to do so. Take this example written by Jade Cary:

Sir Thomas Aldley, the Queen’s ambassador to Portugal, believes such a savage place is not fit for his budding 17-yr old daughter, Lady Catherine. God help us if she happens to fall in love with a rakish Spaniard, or something. Well, Lady C would have been better off, and the ol’ man should have left well enough alone. He sets her to sail for his sister’s place in England so she can enjoy the season and marry well. The sailing vessel is apparently ripe to be plucked for its rich booty by cutthroat pirates, and it is indeed taken over by Captain Jonathan Hale and his band of merry men. He releases the hostages, except for Cathy, whom he berates, spanks and then rapes, not once but over and over again. Despite all of that, Cathy seems…smitten.

Eye-roll and Sigh.

The alleged hero, Jon Hale, is absolutely horrible–probably the vilest ‘hero’ I have ever seen in romantic fiction. The whole kidnap-rape-Stockholm Syndrome thing has been done over and over again in modern fiction, so I was surprised to see this theme in what can only be described as a bodice ripper that should have us all swooning. Instead, this character has not one redeemable feature, and the author doesn’t see the need to scrounge one up for him. Through most of the book he’s busy in a rage, calling her slut/whore/trollop, and then treating her like one, all the while justifying his actions. My favorite moments in the book were the many times he said to her, ‘Have I beat you, or hurt you in any way?’

No, sweetie. You were great.

By the middle of the book I started hating Cathy, too. She luuuurves him. Jeepers, really? REALLY? He seems to blame her for something or other and won’t listen to reason. The man spends so much time sulking, calling her names and raping her that he comes across like a spoiled, horny teenager whose frontal lobe hasn’t fully reformed. We are told, ad nauseum, via the author, via Cathy, how masculine, how ‘all man’ he is. Not so much–more like a malformed brat. And as far as getting to the point of his ‘rage’ (rage isn’t all that sexy), not much happens to get him to the Ah Ha! moment, so when we get there, it’s like, duuuuh. You can see the light bulb go on over his head (I imagined such things so I didn’t start screaming at my poor Kindle Paperwhite) Anticlimactic just doesn’t describe it.

When, toward the end of the book, Jon tears off her clothes, verbally humiliates, and then rapes Cathy (Really? Again??)–now his wife and mother to his newborn son–in the back of a carriage, and then declares them ‘even’ after she slaps his face, I almost threw Professor Paperwhite across the room. I am at a loss as to how, and why, the author thought this man was sexy, how she thought this horror show of a man would bring tingles to female readers, and how she could have written such a weak character as the dim-witted Cathy. Instead of swatting him over the noggin with her favorite cast iron pan, she continues to pine after this a-hole, and in the end they get their HEA. Sadly, I didn’t buy it. Even for the time period in which the book was written, and the year in which the author wrote it, this dude is over-the-top horrid. We all adore the lovable cad who has his odd moments (and a tiny bit of rage, which IS sexy), yet his love for our heroine is clearly at the forefront, and we can find forgiveness for him in the end. That’s how it’s done. Robards missed this one by a sea mile. What was she thinking?

Really. Bad.

Is anyone uncertain whether Jade liked the book? LOL! Jade’s style is different from mine, and she uses more personal phrasing than I did. However, Jade still follows the same basic principles of a book review.

  • Introduction to the book’s context. Is the book paranormal, a romance, young adult fiction, or a thriller?
    This is a historical romance that contains pirates, action, and adult themes. It is not suitable for younger readers.
  • Introduction to the major characters and conflict of the book.
    Cathy loves Jon, and the kidnapping and rape make her fall in love with him.
  • A personal response to the book.
    This book made Jade furious, but not in a good way. She objects to a weak female character and feels the rapes are not a believable form of courtship.
  • A take-away message for the reader, or the “So what?” element. Why should we care about the book? (Unless the review pans the book, and in that case we should see still see a take-away message.)
    This could have been a great book, but it failed.

Readers, that is ordinary readers who are not also authors or who write for review sites, write “customer service” types of reviews. “This is what I liked and what I didn’t like. I’d recommend it or not recommend it to others because…” These are often the most persuasive kinds of reviews because readers have no personal investment in the product (the book). If I want to buy a new computer, I’m more likely to listen to personal stories of people who bought a computer and liked it. Readers purchase the book on their own, or they may receive the book as a gift or a prize. Reader reviews can range from “It sucked!” to a more thought-out review such as Roz’s wonderful review of Editorial Board.

Reviewers, that is people who write a review for a reviewing site (whether their own blog or someone else’s site), usually receive a complimentary copy (an advance review copy, shortened as an “ARC”) to write a review. They may receive these books individually if their book review site is their own. Review sites with more than one reviewer will typically ask for a book blurb, buy link, and basic information about the author. This information is passed on to the site’s reviewers. If someone wants to review, the site owner will obtain an ARC and pass it on to the reviewer. These types of reviews, while still a personal response, tend to be more formal. Some review sites have a policy of only publishing positive reviews. Other sites want a balance of positive and negative reviews. These kinds of review sites often specialize in certain types of fiction. Lipstick Lesbian Reviews, for example, only accepts books that contain (surprise!) F/F themes. The review policy reads:

Lipstick Lesbian Reviews focuses on the underrepresented genres of lesbian, F/F, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) literature and fiction. I am interested in reading and reviewing:

  • Contemporary and Realistic fiction
  • Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
  • Erotica and Dark Romance
  • Young Adult and/or New Adult

Books do not necessarily need to have lesbian characters but it is preferred to have some aspect of female lovin’.

If you are interested in submitting your book for an honest review please send an email to lipsticklesreviews@gmail.com
Please include in the email:

  • Title and Author
  • Sub-genre
  • Blurb
  • Desired time frame

While I may not be able to review EVERY book I will do my best 🙂

Other sites may only accept M/F stories, or only YA, or refuse to accept books with certain themes. Reviewers are not aligned with certain authors (although they may be authors themselves), do not receive financial compensation for their reviews (other than receiving the book free), and work hard to give honest reviews that will help readers choose a book to read.

Author reviews are often given as a form of mutual support. (Bless you and thank you to all of my fellow authors who have done so!) These typically focus on the positive elements and serve as an endorsement of the book.

Where are book reviews posted? Amazon, Goodreads, the publisher’s website, if they take reviews (my publishers, Blushing and LazyDay, both take reviews on their sites), and your blog are all great options. You can also post links to your review on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites.

What a book review (of any type) should never do:

  • Insult the author personally or speak disrespectfully about the book.
    Example: “I wanted to bash this person’s head in.” (True story. No kidding.)
    Better: I don’t like these kinds of characters because…
  • Give away major plot points of the story (aka “spoilers”)
    Example: What a stupid book. In the end (major character) (major plot point spoiler).
    Better: I objected to the ending of this book. Without giving away any spoilers, let me say that the author did not set up the ending, and the plot twist came across as gimmicky rather than realistic.
  • Criticize the book without taking into account its genre and context.
    Example: Mira’s Miracle sucked because it was all F/F action. There should have been a hot guy. Also, spanking is abuse. (Um…read the blurb, shall we?)
    Better: The male characters in Mira’s Miracle did not get enough attention. I liked the strong female characters, but I would have liked to see Mira interact positively with a male disciplinarian figure.

Here’s a real-life example of an appropriate criticism:

Unfortunately this one almost became a DNF to me because I struggled with the age play content.  This is the first time I have encountered age play in a novel and it personally makes me uncomfortable.  However, reading is an experience and now from experience  I know that this type of content is now a hard limit for me.  Regardless, I enjoyed the core of the story and will pick up the next in the series.(Read the full review of Becoming Clissine here)

It’s a fair criticism. Becoming Clissine is advertised as a sci-fi/fantasy socio-political spanking story, not an ageplay. There are no warnings about ageplay, although the blurb does describe Clissa’s re-education being treated as a child.

Phew, this is the longest Tuesdays with Ana to date! And yet we’ve barely scratched the surface. Good thing this is only Part One, and good thing eight talented reviewers have agreed to post interviews about their thoughts as reviewers.

Would you like to try writing your first book review, but you don’t know how to get started? Ask Roz! She’s the newest pro. 🙂 Do you write book reviews for a site and feel frustrated by inappropriate author behavior? Are you an author and frustrated by inappropriate conduct by reviewers?
Do you have advice for new book reviewers, new authors, or any aspects of book reviews?

Oh, and if you leave a book review for Mira’s Miracle on Amazon, Blushing, and/or Goodreads, I will bless your name forever. 🙂

Come back tomorrow for a very exciting announcement! Something amazing will happen in the world of F/F fiction, instigated by yours truly!!