Should writers write reviews?

I’m going to start with a disclaimer, because about a week ago I did something funky to my shoulder, so in addition to having worked last night – and missed my prep time for this post – I took pain meds before writing it. Lord only knows how this is going to come out…

This is a post about book reviews, the golden currency of publishing, though I’m not touching the current dust-up over authors behaving badly toward reviewers. My post is on a much smaller scale.

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I recently joined Netgalley, which is a service used by publishers where they’ll give free copies of selected books in return for reviews. That simplifies things quite a bit, but my logic for joining went something like this: I have a blog. I often struggle for blog content. I read lots of books and love to tell people about them. Sometimes I post reviews on Goodreads & Amazon.

Therefore, if I publish reviews on my blog, I’ll have a new source of content and build an audience.

And free is good.

For example, my last post for the Spellbound Scribes was a book review. Jump HERE if you want to see what I thought of “Prosperity”, a fantastic new Steampunk novel by Alexis Hall that I obtained through Netgalley. In addition to my blog post, I published the review on Amazon and Goodreads. I would have shouted this one from the mountaintops, because it’s a great read, but what happens when I don’t absolutely love a book?

My friend Amanda writes book reviews for her blog (jump HERE for today’s post), for Netgalley, and for the Vampire Book Club. They’re sharp, insightful, and often cost me money because she makes the books sound so good. Every now and then I’ll be reading a book and send her a snarky comment about it, and she always calls me on the carpet when I give said snarky-commented-book a 4-star rating on Goodreads. She has no problem calling a dog a dog, while I tend to abide by the kindergarten rule of, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

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I happened to be sitting next to Amanda at a master class given by Kristen Lamb. She’s a great (hysterically funny!) teacher, with some very wise things to say about establishing your author brand through blogging. And you know what KLamb said?

Authors shouldn’t put book reviews on their blog.

Kristen’s rationale goes something like this:

  • If an author says something nice in a book review, no one will believe them because they’re, well, TeamAuthor.
  • Conversely, if the author says something harsh in a review, that’s bad form because members of TeamAuthor shouldn’t tear each other down. We get enough of that from TeamEveryoneElse.

Those are good points, and I have to say there’s a solid chance my “Prosperity” review will be the last one I post to a blog – though I’ll still put reviews on Amazon & Goodreads.

Taking things from a slightly different perspective, I recently saw a Goodreads review written by KJ Charles, a fabulous author who I tend to get a little crazyfangirl over. Ms. Charles gave a book 3 stars, and just because of that, I won’t likely read it.  My reaction suggests that whether you’re influencing one person or 100,000, you need to pay attention to how you wield your clout.

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When it comes right down to it, I’d much rather beta-read someone’s work than write them a book review after it’s published. Beta reading is fun, because things are still malleable and you can balance your criticisms by calling out the good stuff.  What do you think? Are you an author, and if so, do you write reviews? Where do you publish them? Do you ever give one-star reviews? I don’t, because I worry I’ll end up on a conference panel with the recipient of my negative energy. Leave me a comment, because I’d love to know what you think.

Peace,
Liv

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Review: Prosperity

Prosperity_Alexis Hall

Amazon link          Goodreads link

Blurb

A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!

Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life . . . and his heart.

Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowless.

Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe.

This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.

Review

First things first: right now, before you read any farther, go to Amazon and wish-list this book. Even better, pre-order it. Then go to Goodreads and add it to your “want to read” shelf.  Because seriously, it’s that good. Here are the links again:

Amazon link          Goodreads link

It doesn’t come out until October 27th, but I got a sneak peek at a copy from Netgalley, and it flat-out blew me away.

“Y’know, not everything has to be about everything. Sometimes it’s just about now.” (Piccadilly to Ruben, on the difference between love and sex.)

The story is told from the point of view of Piccadilly, an “urchin with a heart of gold”. He’s a petty thief from the Stews of Gaslight who’s traveled to the sky town of Prosperity with simple goals: acquire enough cash to eat and sleep, and if there’s someone to warm his bed, all the better, regardless of the bits under their clothing.

Piccadilly runs a successful caper, which gets him in the cross-hairs of Milord, an evil and amoral and absolutely honest crimelord. Instead of ending up dead at Milord’s hands, however, Piccadilly gets adopted by the crew of the Shadowless. Over the course of his adventures, he loses some things and gains others, though in the end, his biggest achievement may be finding a place he belongs.

Here’s what I loved about it…

The perfect language and cadence.  For this post, I was half tempted to just compile my favorites out of all of Mr. Hall’s fantastic sentences, and while I did include a few, I figured it would be more informative if I included my thoughts as well.

So here’s my most prominent thought: Piccadilly’s voice rocks. It’s a consistently creative mash-up of periods, like a British Steampunk version of Huckleberry Finn. There were a few bits of modern slang, but the whole thing was such a patchwork I found them entertaining rather than annoying. Beyond the voice, I found the descriptions were colorful and surprising, and the rhythm kept me humming along with pleasure. (And I’m not even exaggerating. This is the kind of book where I’d read a sentence, then re-read it just because it was fun.)

Piccadilly’s surprising wisdom. 

‘Tis often the way, I find, when the job is done. Cos I keep thinking sommat’s waiting on the other side. I dunno what, but I’m sure it’s there, just out of reach… But there’s nowt. There’s only silence. And the things you filch ain’t ever the things you want, and I reckon living itself is a filched business. (Piccadilly, on the consequences of living life as a thief.)

Because of his creative grammar and self-professed inability to make letters behave, Picadilly’s observations always came as a bit of a surprise. He’s a deep and wise and charming soul, and his thoughts on life will stay with me.

The absolute boldness of the story. Prosperity is a Steampunk fantasy with romantic elements, and those romantic elements are almost exclusively same-sex. I’m putting that out there because, while I’ve been reading a lot of queer romance, not everybody’s been hanging out in my head. The romance was part of the story, not the point of the exercise.

More interesting to me was the character of Byron Kae, captain of the Shadowless, and the best gender-ambiguous character I’ve read in a long time, possibly since Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. I didn’t mind the use of the plural pronouns when referring to Byron Kae, possibly because my kids are growing up in a world where asking a new friend which pronouns they prefer is considered good manners. Byron Kae was beautiful and mysterious and I hope they star in one of Mr. Hall’s upcoming novels.

There. I’ve compared Prosperity to Huckleberry Finn & The Left Hand of Darkness. That’s bold. That’s ambitious. That’s a whole ‘nother playing field from most of what I’ve been reading lately.

Any concerns? The denseness of the language. While it’s gorgeous and amazing and entertaining as all hell, it took me a while to learn it. On my first read, I moved slowly through the opening chapters, intrigued, fascinated, but a little confused. The more I read, the easier it got, though in all honesty I felt a greater emotional impact on my second read-through, even though I already knew what would happen next.  I was more fluent in the language, and the critical scenes near the end tore me up.

I give this book five stars, simply because it reaches higher than anything I’ve read in a long time. I’m in awe of the author’s ability to create vibrant characters and to weave thoughtful commentary about real life throughout a wonderful fantasy. And you know the best part? There are four more books in this world scheduled for release in January! I hope you look for Prosperity on it’s release in a couple weeks. It’s a truly amazing ride.

Peace,
Liv

She was black, with fittings of silver, except ’twas a kinda black beyond the everyday, as though it’d swallowed down all the other colours in the world and they was swimming about inside it like rainbow fish. (Piccadilly, describing the airship Shadowless.)