There IS a Wrong Way to Write a Book Review!

What not to do when writing a book review – and what to do instead.

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This week I read a blog post that asserted there is no right or wrong way to write a book review. The writer made some good points, particularly about reviews needing to be individual and personal responses to a book, but I disagree with the basic premise of the article.

I am writing this post from the perspective of a reader, not an author, and I realise that some people won’t agree with me, so let me explain my reasons.

A book review should never recount the story of the book. It shouldn’t give spoilers. Yet time after time, I see reviews that do exactly that. My issue is that if I already know what is going to happen, I feel as though I no longer need to read the book. The joy of the journey has been neutralised. That review has effectively cost the author a sale. 

In all honesty, I hate blurbs that do this, too. As a reader, that’s one of the quickest turnoffs when I’m looking at a book. 

Don’t give me a summary. Give me teasers, give me feelings, give me thoughts and observations. Pique my interest. Make me want to read it for myself, instead of making me feel as though I already have. 

A good review doesn’t have to be long or complicated.  It does needs to be at least 20 words in length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why. One or two sentences will do the trick.  There is no obligation to write any more than that if you don’t want to. 

  • If you do want to write more, you can consider including the following ideas: 
  • Why you liked or disliked it. Remember that others may like what you disliked, and vice versa, so try to be kind. 
  • What important ideas the story made you think about – love, anger, justice, revenge, pain, fear, overcoming… anything that is relevant to you is a valid point for comment.
  • What the characters are like as people, and what we learn from them Did the writer’s style impress you in any particular way?
  • Was it easy to read and understand, or did you have to really work at it?
  • Who else might like to read it? Think about interests, age group, and genres here. 

This will help you to write a review that is interesting in itself, and which will encourage the right readers to choose that particular book. In that way, you’ll help both the author and prospective readers at the same time. 

The Difference Between Poetry And … Everything Else.

A post about what is, or is not, poetry.

Excuse me for a moment while I climb onto my soap box again. 

A few months ago, I wrote a post in which I complained about books which claimed to be poetry, but were actually just a collection of sentences arranged with one word on each line. 

Today, I’m going to indulge my poetry-nerdiness yet again, in response to another trend I’ve observed on social media.  

As both a reader and a poet, I get really annoyed when pieces of writing are labelled as poetry when they’re not. 

This is rife on Instagram, where some folks take a pretty picture of a sentence or a paragraph and call it poetry. They use the hashtags like #poem, #instapoem, #poetry, #poemsofinstagram… you get the idea. I’ve bitten my tongue – or my virtual fingertips – so many times when I’ve wanted to comment that what is pictured is not a poem. 

I’ve seen letters, paragraphs, and even short stories presented as “poetry”. I’ve seen single sentences tagged “poetry”. In fact, there are books out there with a sentence on each page, which the creators have classified as ‘poetry’. 

This is where I beg to differ.

A sentence, a letter, a paragraph… an entire book may be written in highly poetic language. It may use conventional poetic techniques such as imagery or alliteration, but is it poetry? Everything within me screams “NO!”. A letter is a letter. A sentence is a sentence. A paragraph is… prose, not a poem. 

The issue is one of form. 

Poetry as a form has conventions of its own that set it apart from a letter or a sentence, or anything else. While it’s true that poetry can take any number of forms or styles, those are forms and styles that are recognised as being poetry. They are not forms that are instantly recognised as something else. 

I totally accept and agree that a sentence or any other piece of writing can be beautiful. I’ve read individual sentences or paragraphs that have taken my breath away with the imagery or the power of the writing. They can be poetic. But, according to the conventions of one form as opposed to another, they’re not poems. They’re. Just. Not. 

I’m not trying to be a poetry snob here— in fact, it’s taking no effort at all. I realise I may be coming across as a pretentious git, but let’s look at this from another perspective. 

I don’t get to call myself an author if I don’t write and publish anything. I don’t get to call myself a doctor because I am not, in fact, a doctor. In terms of professions, we don’t get to call ourselves something we’re not. 

Alternatively, I could choose to start telling people I’m a cheeseburger. I’ve eaten a few cheeseburgers, I know what they taste like, and I can list the ingredients. And they do say you are what you eat. However, people will fairly promptly tell me I’m not actually a cheeseburger. The more I make that assertion, the more strident people will be in assuring me I’m not. Even if I went to McDonalds or Burger King and sat in the food warmer, it wouldn’t make me a cheeseburger. I am quite obviously not a cheeseburger. 

If we pretend to be other than what we are, that very quickly becomes a matter of integrity. At first people laugh, then they get frustration, and then they get angry. Trust is broken, and often, walls go up that are not easily dismantled. 

That is exactly where I am with other pieces of writing masquerading as poetry. I’m well past the point of frustration. If I pick up a book because it says it is poetry, and the contents are nothing more than pithy sayings or observations of life in sentence form, I’m going to be annoyed, no matter how beautifully they’re written. If I wanted a book full of meme-worthy of proverbs and quotations, that’s what I would have gone looking for. 

Poetry takes time and effort to craft and shape. It isn’t easy to condense the meaning and message into imagery and forms that require skill to master. To write something beyond trite rhyme or greeting card verses is more difficult than many people realise. The ability to do that, consistently and repeatedly, is what makes someone a poet. Poetry is a craft that I take very seriously indeed. 

That’s why I refuse to “like” posts on Instagram, or anywhere else for that matter, which present one thing as something it’s not.  It’s why I am very choosy about what poetry and poets I review and promote on my book blog.  It’s why I’m on my soapbox, ranting furiously to anyone who will listen – or read, as the case may be. 

It’s hard enough getting people to take real poetry seriously these days. We certainly don’t need to confuse people any further. 

Guest Blogger via Pass Me That Book: The Bold Mom Shares Horror Recs for Halloween, er Valentine’s Day!

The Bold Mom knows horror and fantasy.
That’s why I always pay attention to her book recommendations .

Here, she gives her suggestions for books to read for Valentines Day… or Halloween… whenever.

passmethatbook

Welcome everyone to my first guest blogger @theBoldMom who is a prolific reader of all things dark and wonderful. Today she will share some lovely book recommendations for Valentine’s Day.

Very often I see myself swimming between books and stories that could step in horror and dark fantasy. The limit? It certainly depends on the reader and the level of darkness they are able to absorb. I think I’m not alone on this island, so I’d like to talk about some books which fantasy and
horror lovers will enjoy, each one from a different perspective.

DESERT SHADOWS by Joshua Dowidat is one of the books I have deeply enjoyed. Dowidat sets
a stage of darkness and childhood memories to afterwards, holding your hand through a forest of ghosts and demons where you can’t flee from. I’m never tired of recommending this book.

SHADOWMANCER by Jeremy Mac
Jeremy Mac is a…

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Sylvermoon Chronicles VII: A New Release Anthology

Sylvermoon Chronicles is an annual short story anthology created by The Confederacy of the Quill, an international writers’ cooperative. I am very proud to have one of my stories, Contaminus, included in the 2019 issue of this highly regarded anthology series.

While the book releases on Valentines Day, it should not be mistaken for a romance collection.

Rather, I like to think of it as a gift for those who, like me, would sooner read genres other than lovey-dovey romance, and a welcome distraction from all the kissy-face sentimentality often associated with February 14th. The Sylvermoon Chronicles series features stories in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Adventure. 

It is an honor to be published in a series which I have very much enjoyed as a reader, alongside a number of authors whose work I have previously read, reviewed and fangirled over. I was both excited and slightly surprised when my story was accepted, especially given the inspiration behind the writing of Contaminus.

New worlds await you in the newest Sylvermoon Chronicles collection, which hit the shelves today. The ebook is widely available now, and the paperback will be available soon. 

Red Cape Publishing’s Book Choices for Women In Horror Month – February 2019

Originally posted on Red Cape Publishing:
February is Women in Horror Month, and this is why we bring to you a fantastic selection of books from female authors, in a variety of sub-genres. Have a browse, pick up a few new books, and maybe even discover your new favourite author. Starblood by Carmilla Voiez Star…

In this post, Red Cape Publishing presents a shelf full of excellent horror books by female authors in honour of Women In Horror Month.

I’ve added a few to my own shelf, and I would encourage you to peruse the titles presented here and do the same.

Red Cape Publishing

February is Women in Horror Month, and this is why we bring to you a fantastic selection of books from female authors, in a variety of sub-genres. Have a browse, pick up a few new books, and maybe even discover your new favourite author.

Digital 3D Illustration of a gothic FemaleStarblood by Carmilla Voiez

Star craves freedom, but her lover, Satori, refuses to let her go. He casts a spell to make her love him again, opening a gateway through which Lilith, mother of demons, enters their lives.
​Lilith serves no man. Instead she seduces Star, assuring her that there is no shame in love, only completion. Thus begins a strange and terrible love triangle that leads them to Scotland and the Cairngorm mountains. Purchase here

hellhoundHellhound by Lou Yardley

Read our review of Hellhound here

* 2018 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards Finalist *

The Hound & The Philosopher Inn looks like…

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‘Smoke and Shadows’ – Multitasking With Genre

This new release book is more than “just poetry”.

One of the questions authors are often asked is “What do you write?”

I used to simply answer “poetry”. Then I turned my hand to horror, so my tagline became “Poetry with soul and horror with none”. Then I wrote a couple of fantasy novellas for the Once Upon A Time Anthology.

As my 11th book hits the stores, it’s fair to say now that I am a multi-genre author. While my poetry and horror only occasionally converge, they certainly did so most effectively in A Poet’s Curse.

‘Smoke and Shadows’, though, really is a genuine multitasker when it comes to genre. It’s much more than “just poetry”.

In the pages of this book, you will find:
Fantasy
Fairy Tale
Magical realism
Allegory
Mystery
Tragedy
Humour
Reflection
True stories

Whatever genre you prefer to read, you will find ‘Smoke and Shadows’ a refreshing change of perspective.

I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you enjoy my work.

‘Smoke and Shadows’ is widely available as both paperback and ebook.

Don’t Miss The 2018 Golden Squirrel Awards

Book Squirrel will present the second annual Golden Squirrel Awards on December 31st, 2018.

The logo of the Golden Squirrel Book Awards page.

Book Squirrel has read and reviewed some fantastic books this year.

While not every book can receive an award, Book Squirrel will present the second annual Golden Squirrel Independent Book Awards to books in more than twenty different genres, across a variety of age ranges, interests and styles. 

Last year’s awards featured some excellent books, and gave a number of Indie authors another vehicle for promoting and sharing their work. This year, the selections are equally commendable.

Just to make it clear, this is not a contest that people can vote on. This is an entirely subjective and preference-driven selection process. Book Squirrel knows what he likes, and that’s what he reads. When he reads, he always leaves a review. And on the Book Squirrel blog, he awards gold, silver or bronze acorns instead of a star rating system. 

At the end of the year, he chooses the best of the books he has read and reviewed, and gives some nice shiny awards to the wonderful authors who entertained and enlightened him in the past twelve months. 

You can be sure that the winners of Golden Squirrel Awards are excellent reads, and worthy of recognition. 

Naturally, my own books are ineligible for a Golden Squirrel, as Book Squirrel is a most ethical creature and strives to be impartial. He does love reading them, though!

Follow Book Squirrel on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.

Nitwittery, Indeed.

As of July 1, Australians can only buy from their Amazon’s AU store. Guess who profits?

2015-12-12 21.42.30 Nitwittery

As of today, Amazon’s new rule about Australians only buying from their AU store will apply. Yet again, it seems that living at the arse end of the earth isn’t enough of a disadvantage. We already have to pay more to go anywhere and to send things overseas in the mail. Having anything delivered from overseas is ridiculously expensive. Now this.

I’ve yet to see how the new rule will affect my ability to actually buy kindle books and leave reviews for them.

I’ve definitely spent the required $50 in the US store, so I should still be able to leave reviews if it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s just an extra thing I’m going to have to do if I want to leave a review.
Are they going to make me spend another $50 in the AU store before I can leave reviews there, though? That remains to be seen, but I’m guessing so.

I feel as though I’m being screwed over by the Zon, yet again.
I’m so thankful that I have all my universal book links and custom shortlinks set up as part of my own branding.
At least none of that will have to change.

One quick virtual tour through the AU store confirms what I already suspected – prices for everything are higher, even factoring in the exchange rate. I can tell you where I won’t be shopping for anything other than eBooks! And if the books I want to read are available elsewhere, I’ll be giving the fine folks at Kobo some business.

My Goodreads Challenge 2018: Check!

I’ve passed my Goodreads Challenge 2018 goal, and the books I’ve read are worth talking about!

At the beginning of the year, I set my Goodreads Challenge goal at 40 books for the year. I figured that was a fair goal, given that I work four days a week at a job that easily takes more than four days a week, and I have other commitments – writing my own books, for example, and rehearsing with the theatre company for a show in May/June before directing and rehearsing my school musical from June to September.

By mid-April, I had read 40 books and extended that goal to 75. There were two reasons for this.

First, being busy, I selected a lot of novellas and short story reads that I could slot in around my busy schedule. A lot of them could be read in the space of thirty minutes to an hour, so they fit into a lunch break really nicely and gave my brain some much needed down time.

Secondly, I hit a patch of writer’s block that hasn’t entirely disappeared yet. Rather than stressing about it, I decided to fuel my imagination and my soul with some great books. I’m still writing poetry, but the fiction brain is on vacation somewhere, and I’m just waiting patiently for it to come back.

So far this year, I’m at the point where I’ve read 77 of 75 books. That’s 77 great Indie authors whose books have received a review and free regular promotion not just on Goodreads and Amazon, but also on the Book Squirrel blog,  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Every single one of them is a verified purchase review on Amazon. I’m not saying that in the interests of receiving praise or adulation – instead, I’m rather chuffed at being able to do that for authors whose work I admire. I know how hard it is to get someone to review a book, even if they’ve really enjoyed it.

I also want to tell you how good these books I’ve read are.   I deliberately included some reads that I wouldn’t normally select for myself just to broaden the horizons of my book blog. Some weren’t to my preference genre or content wise, but that doesn’t stop me recognising great writing when I see it. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed them. There is definitely something for everyone on this list.

You can read my reviews of any books you’re interested in on the Book Squirrel blog, or on Goodreads or Amazon simply by searching for the book.

If you’re not following me anywhere that I post reviews, you are most welcome to follow me on Book Squirrel, Twitter, Facebook, GoodreadsGoogle+ or Pinterest.

So take a look at these fabulous books, see what interests you, and check out some great new reads. 

Clicking on the image will take you directly to my Goodreads Challenge 2018, where you can find details on each book’s author, genre, audience, and publication. 

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Mother’s Day, 2018: A Tribute To My Mother.

My mother was the most influential person in my development and career as a bookworm. 

Today is celebrated as Mother’s’ Day in Australia and many other places around the world. My mother passed away in 2011, but today I want to pay tribute to her as the most influential person in my development and career as a bookworm.

IMG_0035I inherited my love of books and reading from both my parents, but it was Mum who put the consistent effort in to enabling my reading habit.

I surprised my mother – and probably everyone else, now that I think of it – by being able to read when I was three years old. In a manner entirely consistent with how I would behave for the rest of my life, I picked her up on skipping words and sentences when she was reading to me. I can understand her doing that – I’ve read the same book to kids a bazillion times, too, and it does wear a little thin. Back then, though, I was probably morally outraged as only a three year old can be when they’re getting shortchanged on a favourite story. When I read back to her the story as it was written on the page, Mum thought I had merely memorised the whole thing. So she chose a new book for me, and I read that one to her, too.

From that time on, Mum was always enthusiastic and active in encouraging me to read widely, and spent many Saturday afternoons driving me to the library so that I could borrow enough books to keep me going for two weeks.

By the time I was ten, I had read all of her Agatha Christie books and many of my grandgather’s Perry Mason and James Bond books, and I had well-loved copies of the Narnia Chronicles and the “Little House” books on my own shelf.

It was then that Mum let me read the old copy of Anne of Green Gables that her own parents had given her. I clearly remember reading Lucy Maud Montgomery’s descriptions of Prince Edward Island sand saying to her, “I’m going to go there one day.”
“You have no idea how far away that is!” she replied.
“I don’t care. I’m going!” was my response.

23 2015-10-04 15.08.02
I finally did go to PEI and visited Green Gables in 2015, and I wished that I could have told Mum and shown her my photos. I believe she would have been genuinely happy for me, and proud that I had achieved something I had wanted to do since that young age.

I know my mother was proud of me for following her into teaching, and I know she would have been proud as punch of the fact that I became a writer, too.

My career as a poet and author, though, would have been far less likely to happen without the love for books and reading that Mum and Dad modelled and mentored for me, and for that I will always be thankful.

My first book was not born until almost five years after Mum graduated to heaven. I couldn’t write about her passing for several years afterwards, because it was too raw. When I did finish the poem that I wrote for her, I shared it with my father and siblings so that they could share my memory. If they hadn’t loved it, I wouldn’t have published it. They did, though, and it enabled me to share part of that last day of her life to which they were not witnesses.

Since ‘July 19, 2011’ was published in ‘Nova’, it has touched and encouraged many people who have lost their mums – and dads, and others close to them. When people tell me that my poetry has touched their heart or affected the way they think about something, that’s when I feel the most fulfilled as a poet. I’m really proud today that Mum’s poem can have that effect on someone else. Although she is gone, her legacy lives on, not just in my memory and my heart, but also in my writing.

It’s impossible to not miss my mother on days like today, and not a day passes that I don’t think of her.  So, for Mothers’ Day 2018, I want to share the poem I wrote for her with you. I hope you enjoy it and find it meaningful.

 

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