From the Keeper Shelf – 1

There’s a little game going around on Facebook – it’s been there for a while, actually – in which people post images of ten of their favorite movies or books, one each day, without explanation. I haven’t played because I can’t choose just ten favorites, whether we’re talking books or movies. I’ve often thought about starting a thread here, on my blog, but hadn’t gotten around to it until today. Why now? Well, I’ve been re-reading a lot of my favorites from my keeper shelf, and maybe you’re doing the same thing. Maybe my favorites will end up becoming some of yours.

These won’t be reviews. I’ll tell you one thing that I like about the book, pretty much why it’s on my keeper shelf, then give you a Goodreads link, an Amazon link and a link to the author’s website so you can find out more.

Be warned that my keeper shelf isn’t in any reasonable kind of order. It’s a bookcase with each shelf having two rows of books, one in front of the other, and then more stacked sideways on top. The only order is by format – the mass market paperbacks are at the top because they’re lighter; trade paperbacks in the middle; hard covers at the bottom. Lots of books, so they’re packed in really tightly. 🙂

This week’s choices are from the mass market shelf. I literally pulled the first five books out of the front row on the top shelf.

Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanFirst up is Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I have the Berkley paperback from 1995, which looks like this=====>

This is one of those rare stories that I loved both as a movie and as a book. It’s a tale of two sisters raised by their odd aunts. They’re estranged from each other and one and no longer as close to the aunts, but they have to work together for one to escape an abusive situation. I love this book for the story – which is one of reunion and redemption – and for the characters, but mostly I love Alice Hoffman books because of her voice. She has a marvelous way with words that draws me right in – and often I keep reading right to the end of the book. Here’s an excerpt from just before the big finish, to give you a taste:

“The aunts stand in Sally’s driveway, between the Honda and Jimmy’s Oldsmobile, their black suitcases set down beside them. They close their eyes, to get a sense of this place. In the poplar trees, the sparrows watch with interest. The spiders stop spinning their webs. The rain will begin after midnight, on this the aunts agree. It will fall in sheets, like rivers of glass. It will fall until the whole world seems silver and turned upside down. You can feel such things when you have rheumatism, or when you’ve lived as long as the aunts have.”

It’s melodic and as seductive as a siren’s song.

This is mainstream fiction or maybe women’s fiction, although there are romantic elements and fantasy elements, too. (The aunts are, after all, witches of a most sensible kind.)

Here’s the book on Goodreads and here it is on Amazon.com

Here’s Alice Hoffman’s website. What excellent timing! There’s a prequel to Practical Magic being published this fall. Something else to add to the TBR pile and an excellent reason to re-read this book now.

 

 

Bitten by Books Review of Rebel

Rebel, book #3 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Claire DelacroixAnd today, we have the third review from Carol Malcolm at Bitten by Books for my Prometheus Project series of urban fantasy romances. This one is for Rebel, and here is the concluding paragraph of her review:

“In this fabulous novel, Delacroix masterfully combines the unlikely mix of non-stop action and suspense with intriguing intellectual ideas, providing a glimpse into a horrifying world that feels all too possible. The depiction of a society ravaged by nuclear destruction, the shades suffering the literal fall-out, that descends into abject slavery and rampant bigotry makes the reader’s skin crawl. Despite this representation and the images used to portray it, the tone of the narrative contains a strong positive element due to the thread of hope that runs throughout.

The presence of the visiting angels seeking to aid humanity and essentially save them from themselves bolsters that atmosphere of optimism, but Armand, before meeting Theodora, questions the wisdom of angelic involvement. Longing to rejoin with the rest of the host and unsure of the success of his mission, Armand wonders, “What would he do in this sphere, with no hope of ever escaping it?” (250). Though not the primary focus of the story, the growing relationship between angel and wraith adds poignancy and determination to the mission of both characters.

Though this reviewer regrets not being able to return to this fascinating universe due to this installment marking the end of the series, Rebel delivers a highly-satisfying conclusion to the superb Prometheus Project Trilogy.”

Of course, I’m sending Carol a copy of Tupperman’s book, Abyss, to review. You can read all of her review for Rebel on the Bitten by Books site right here, and you can read an excerpt from Rebel on this site, right here.

Bitten by Books Review of Fallen

Fallen, book #1 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Claire DelacroixOne of the fun things about attending conferences is meeting reviewers, readers and other writers. I met Carol Malcolm from Bitten by Books at the Coastal Magic Conference and we ended up talking about my Prometheus Project. She said she’d reviewed the books when they were originally published, but I had never seen the reviews. Well, she very kindly sent me the links, so I’m going to share these wonderful reviews with you.

Here’s the concluding paragraph of her review of Fallen:
“Delacroix’s fully-realized, disturbing world pulls the reader in on the first page and the narrative maintains both its suspenseful pace and intriguing storyline for the duration of the novel. The appealing Lilia and Adam and their respective backstories set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic landscape combine to provide a multi-layered reading experience. This absorbing and compelling urban fantasy/science fiction hybrid will satisfy fans of both genres and has this reviewer looking ahead to book two.”

You can read her complete review right here, and you can read an excerpt from Fallen, right here.

 

Reviews

Miss me yesterday? It was a bank holiday here – but more importantly, it was the day the humidity broke. A perfect summer’s day meant that I took the holiday and enjoyed it. Hope you had a good day, too.

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about book reviews, so thought we might talk about that today.

There have always been reviews, of course, and each book in the world has always gathered a collection of reviews that cover the full range of reactions. You can look at any book and discover that there were people who loved it and people who hated it. This makes sense and, in a way, it’s reassuring that we don’t all like the same things. If we were all in complete agreement about books, I’ve always thought there’d be one book published a month and we’d all read it in unison, like a massive book club. That’s a horrifying idea to me. I’d much rather there were thousands of choices.

Just as there have always been reviews, there have always been writers who were very sensitive about their reviews. This also makes sense – we spend a lot of time creating a book, then even more time taking it through the production process. By the time a book is published, an author has lived with it for at least two years and knows it inside and out. Quite frequently, the author also loves the book, so it can be crushing to realize that not everyone in the world feels the same way. A very common topic of discussion in writers’ groups is how to deal with bad reviews. (The good ones are never a problem!)

One of the things that has made reviews an even hotter topic in recent years is the ability to review books on online sites. There are two changes here. Once upon a time, only official reviewers with official review publications – like Publishers’ Weekly or the New York Times Book Review or Romantic Times – could post reviews of books. Now anyone can – that’s the first change. (The second change is the immediacy of reviewing – since such reviews are posted online, they appear instantly. Traditionally, reviews were printed in magazines or newspapers, so took more time to appear. ) This has meant a proliferation of reviews; it also has meant that a certain kind of review has grown in popularity. Reviews of this variety are more than just negative: they often include plot spoilers, inflammatory language, and can be personal attacks on the author. They can be venomous. The strange thing is that they tend to appear when a book is made free. Naturally, many authors who are troubled by bad reviews find these reviews particularly disturbing.

The thing is that we are all entitled to our opinion. Overall, I quite like this democratization of the review process: I like that anyone can post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. The world is full of avid readers, many of whom are more informed about the expectations in a particular sub-genre than the official reviewers who are assigned to review books for some publications might be. (I used to have a joke that a great review in one particular publication was a bad omen, because their reviewers often didn’t understand the expectations of the romance genre. In those days, the books that sold best for me were the ones with the crummiest reviews in that publication.)

If nothing else, we are all aware of what works for us as a reader. The really great thing about this proliferation of reviews is that they are not anonymous reviews: if I discover that a reviewer and I have similar tastes, I can follow that person’s reviews to find recommendations for new books. One of the things that is annoying about certain review publications is that their reviews are posted anonymously, just attributed to the publication. You can see that the reviews in any given niche would appear to be erratic if there are two or more reviewers in that niche (because we all have different taste) which makes the reviews less useful to readers.

One of the things I tell writers who get upset about reviews is that I’m not sure they matter in terms of sales. It has always been believed that a great review would propel the sales of a book, and that an endorsement from a famous author would drive sales. In my experience, though, it doesn’t seem to have happened – or if it has, the relationship between quote and sales is not perfectly linear. A good quote helps, but it doesn’t make bestsellerdom inevitable. Similarly, having only great reviews prompts suspicion among readers, so a book with all 5-star reviews might not sell well at all. Even a bad review can help a reader made an informed choice: if a reviewer complains about a certain plot element he or she dislikes and the prospective reader likes that element, knowing its there can make the sale. Overall, the popularity of my books doesn’t seem to have much to do with their overall reviews and ratings.

Despite that, I do think reviews matter. They can provide insight to the author as to whether a book met readers’ expectations for that genre, and whether the cover effectively communicated the kind of book it is. They can reveal weaknesses in the book, perhaps areas the author has more to learn. They can also be incredibly rewarding when a reviewer “gets” the book, just as the author intended. Reviews do matter and can influence sales, but I don’t spend hours poring over them, much less become devastated when someone doesn’t like my book. There are lots of books I don’t like – the difference is that I’d rather dive back into my TBR in hopes of finding one I like better than spend time composing a bad review. We’re all different, and that’s a good thing.

Do you read reviews of books? Do you write reviews? Have you ever disputed a review? If you’re an author, how do you deal with bad reviews?