Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why did you like THAT horrible book?

I've been reading book reviews on this morning.  Websites that encourage feedback from its client readers provide, in theory, a wonderful service to consumers.  After all, there are millions of titles out there to choose from, so hearing what others who have experienced a story first hand have to say may help you narrow your selection of potential buys.  But the sites offer more insight than that, especially to other writers.

We all know writers know the importance of genre in marketing their work and identifying with a their target audience.  But readers don't.

Before I was a writer, I read what my friends recommended were "awesome" books.  I had friends who were active in their churches and friends who were Goth.  Tattooed, pierced friends and friends who competed in beauty pageants.  Athletes and Dead Heads...and althletes who followed the Dead.  Clearly, their taste in books was as diverse as the people I hung out with.  I wound up reading across genres and sat in with various target audiences.  Reading the reviews on Amazon, it's clear to me others do the same.

Consider these stats:

New Moon, Stephanie Meyer's second book of the Twilight saga sensation, received 2,232 Amazon reviews that break down like  this:


If 3 stars represents "average," then 450 people, or roughly 20% thought the book was average or below average.

One of my all-time favorite books, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has received 888 Amazon reviews


56 people thought Jane Eyre deserved a 1-star rating!

The Stand, by Stephen King.  Its complete, uncut version received 1,018 customer reviews on Amazon:


141 readers out of 779 thought The Stand was just "eh."

Just for fun, I checked out The Holy Bible.  I won't post those results here, since many of the comments  argued over religious tenets or over translation of certain versions, but I still found it hilarious that The Bible received negative customer reviews.

It does make my point, though.  Not everyone will fit into one writer's target audience.  As writers, we need to keep this in mind along every step of our journeys.  Negative feedback in our careers is a statistical certainty.  We'll draw it when we share our work on our blogs, with crit groups, and with agents.  We'll hear it from editors and publishers.  And once our books are in print, we'll read it on Amazon, Goodreads, and anywhere else where the general public is welcome to share their opinions.

When your book is published, do you think you'll want to read the negative reviews?
Why or why not?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Enthusiasm for Catching Fire

Synopsis:  Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.  (Source)

I loved this book as much as its predecessor, The Hunger Games.  Suzanne Collins is a masterful writer who understands the art of breakneck pacing in fiction.  I literally couldn't put Catching Fire down until I'd finished the last word.

All I can say is regardless of your preferred genre, to write or read, you will enjoy this book.  In fact, I you haven't yet, pick up copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and read them.  Then you'll be ready, like the rest of us, for the August 2010 release of Mockingjay, the highly anticipated third and last installment in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Have you read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire?  On a scale of one to five (with five being "On My List of Top Five All-time Favorite Books" and one being "Hated It!"), how would you rate them? 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: The Giver

[Back cover blurb:] Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war of fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.

When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Giver is one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. Lois Lowry created a world where society has eradicated hunger, poverty, and war. There is no inequality, no conflict. And no choice.

The story is told through the eyes of young Jonas. It begins, "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." By the end of chapter one, I'd assumed a truth about Jonas, one he'd soon learn about himself: He is special. This was made known to him at the annual Ceremony, when he and the other "Twelves" (the Community identified its children as groups based on their age) were to receive their life assignments. The Elders brought each Twelve to the stage one at a time, and Jonas watched with anticipation as his friends Asher and Fiona went before him to receive their occupations. But when it was his turn, Jonas learned he has been chosen for something rare, a unique vocation bestowed on only a few in the history of the Community. This honor put him under the tutelage of The Giver, an Elder who must pass the torch of knowledge and wisdom to Jonas.

In this provacative, John Newberry Award winning novel, Lowry asks her readers to contemplate the price of utopia. If, by collective concensus, humanity organizes itself in ways that only tolerate fairness and equality, then every citizen prospers. The risk of famine disappears when overpopulation is resolved. When children are observed from birth, and their natural talents and aptitudes are recognized, they can be placed in occupations which will render them the most content, productive, and successful. But at what cost?

In the course of his training, Jonas learned hard truths about freedom and choice. Justice and injustice became blurred, subjective, and confused to his new way of thinking. Rules didn't look the same to him anymore. As I followed Jonas in his journey of awareness, I began to see my own world through new eyes.

One of my favorite moments in this book (the following is not a spoiler) was when Jonas realizes there is color in the world. The Sameness his society had adapted, and which he had always known, relied, in part, on the absence of color. This concept made me think about what we classify as paranormal. There are documented cases of people who possess the ability to read minds, travel along astral plains, move objects without touching them. Yet the overwhelming majority of our society disbelieves these possibilities. Most grow up being told paranormal experiences aren't real. They don't exist. Perhaps, like Jonas, we only have to believe those things are possible to bring them into our sphere of reality. The first time Jonas glimpses color reminded me of the first time I saw an aura. I was overwhelmed with emotion, in part because I could finally confirm auras do exist, and partly because I realized I'd always been able to perceive auras, I just didn't know what it was I was seeing.

The ending of The Giver is as debatable as the questions raised throughout the book. In fact, I was inspired by the last chapter of this book to write yesterday's blog post about story endings. Lowry doesn't hand her readers the story's conclusion wrapped up with a pretty bow on top. Instead, she lets you interpret her words. My son, Cody is eleven and read The Giver before me. Yesterday, I asked him what he thought happened at the end. I won't share our conversation, except to say one of us sees the ending through the eyes of an idealist and the other through those of a realist. I don't think it matters who's right. Regardless of how you interpret the ending, Lowry uses The Giver to make a statement: Free will is synonymous with Freedom.

The Giver is book one of a triology. The other two book are:

Gathering Blue -- In this speculation on the nature of the future of human society, life in Kira's community is nasty, brutish, and, for all the ill and dis-abled, short.

Messenger -- In this novel that unites characters from "The Giver" and "Gathering Blue," Matty, a young member of a utopian community that values honesty, conceals an emerging healing power that he cannot explain or understand.

I highly recommend this book. Book clubs will love discussing it!

The Giver, Copyright 1993 by Lois Lowry
Published by Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books
ISBN: 0-440-23768-8

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

[Book cover blurb:]
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to
participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Acclaimed writer SUZANNE COLLINS, author of The New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles, delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, advernture and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.

I couldn't put The Hunger Games down. Collins created a harsh, post-apocolyptic world where a cast of vivid characters captured my attention in the first chapter and clung to my fancy until the final sentence. Heroine Katniss Everdeen was smart and adept, fiercely loyal to her sister and best friend, and a true survivor. I rooted for her unwaveringly. Her allies became my friends: Gale, Prim, Cinna, Peeta and Rue. Her adversaries became my enemies: Cato, Clove, Glimmer, and the other tributes. I was drawn into Katniss' world where oppression and deceit were the norms, and the near-constant tension was excruciating. This was one exciting read!

Collins is an author who clearly understands the concept of high stakes in fiction. The premise for The Hunger Games could have been inspired by the realily television show "Survivor." It's plausible to imagine Collins thinking, I could write a book about a survival game where instead of voting players off the island, you eliminated them by actually killing them. The last player standing wins more than a million bucks, she wins her LIFE.

Like "Survivor," her version includes a television audience (viewing is mandatory) and all the pageantry that goes into an Olympic-level sporting event, including stylists whose job is to project through the player a certain character; costumes that portray the personality of that character; and constant surviellance by camera crews that capture every moment, real and construed, for the audience.

As if the concept of watching a fight-to-the-death game of survival on television weren't intense enought, Collins raised the stakes again: She made the players children. In her futuristic country of Panem, the totalitarian government requires that one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen be chosen from each district to participate. No child can refuse; no parent can protect his family. And everyone must watch or be cruelly punished.

This was one of those stories where I constantly found myself thinking, How the hell is Katniss going to get out of this situation? And each time her thought process worked through what I fathomed as hopeless, and she came up with a clever course of action that, with some luck along the way, got her through to the next crisis.

The only time I questioned the narration was in the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. It was hard for me to answer Collins' calling to accept whole-heartedly Katniss' naivity towards Peeta's feelings for her. Katniss misreads every look, every inkling that pointed to Peeta's true emotions. Although her whole life growing up in District Twelve was bleak and carnal as far as finding food and other means to survive, I couldn't help thinking these kids were nonetheless teenagers. Where were Katniss' raging hormones? How could she be so physically close to Peeta, kissing him, with his energy so tuned into hers, and not react to him? It was hard for me to buy into, even though I found myself believing all along (even if Katniss was, again, clueless) that her heart belonged to Gale. In fact, I can't wait to read Catching Fire to learn what happens next with Katniss and Gale.

I'd read many shout-outs around the blogosphere from YA writers, accolades for The Hunger Games. I officially lend my voice to their cause: Read this book! You won't be disappointed. But beware, don't start it if you can't devote time to reading that week. I devoured it in two days, and I'll bet you'll find yourself unable to put it down too.

The Hunger Games, Copyright 2008 by Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic Press
ISBN - 13:978-0-439-02348-1

Did you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you recommend it to others?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: The Almost Moon

[Back cover blurb:]
For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally reaches her limit and crosses a terrible boundary, the world comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the course of a single day, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties within families, the wages of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is an unsettling, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

I'm a huge fan of Alice Sebold's break-out, international best-seller The Lovely Bones, so when it was my turn to select my book club's next read, I chose her most recent novel, The Almost Moon. It was only when I visited to gather publishing information and the book's back cover blurb, to share with the club, that I first read the reader critiques. I was shocked to learn that the overwhelming feedback was negative. Scathing, in some cases. I worried I'd chosen a terrible book, and a quiet panic squeezed my heart.

I'm here to tell you: Don't let those reviews dissuade you from reading this book! Alice Sebold is brilliant. She's a writer's writer, so I can understand how a reader who isn't passionate about the craft of creative writing, who reads strictly for entertainment, would be frustrated by The Almost Moon.

The story opens with a shocking admission. "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." The first chapter is devoted to describing how it happened. Although the descriptions are horrific, blunt and violent, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. There are fifteen chapters in all, but the book covers only the twenty-four hour period following her mother's murder. All the while, Helen is introspective and grapples with her emotions as she tries to make sense of what she's done, and why. Many readers who commented on Amazon were frustrated by her and couldn't understand her motives and actions. Many even admitted being unable or unwilling to finish the book.

They missed out on a profound literary experience. Sebold masterfully weaves symbols and themes into her plot. There are layers of meaning to Helen's every thought and perception. At first, I couldn't understand her, and all my sympathies were with her mother, Claire. But as Helen's story is exposed and her lifetime spent with a mentally ill mother is revealed, I found myself choosing sides. In the end, I sided with Helen, who became a wholly sympathetic character in my eyes.

The Almost Moon will stay with you long after the final chapter. Its scrutiny of relationships, particularly the inseverable bonds between mother and daughter, resonates with honesty and complexity. And if you are a writer, you will be inspired to take your craft to the next level. For Sebold truly is a masterful writer.

The Almost Moon, Copyright 2007 by Alice Sebold
Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
ISBN 978-0-316-67746-2

Have you read this book? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to others? And if you haven't read it, are you interested now to pick it up?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My 2010 Reading Challenge

I'm not sure which I began doing first, reading or writing. My love for both extends beyond my earliest memories. Especially during my tween and teen years -- when life was hard enough for an average girl without the extra burden of abuse thrown into the cruel mix -- I retreated to the safe and magical worlds of books. Some were universes crafted by others, and some were existences of my own making, penned into journals and kept safe from oppressors' eyes. Both provided escape. Both were my salvation.

Today, I write the kinds of stories I'd enjoy reading, and when I read, I'm inspired to be a better writer. They are two sides of the same coin, really. And since I love a good challenge, I've decided to act on the inspiration drawn from other writers' blogs and give myself a reading challenge for 2010. Yes, I realize it's already February...but it's early February, and I've already completed two novels this year. So, here's what I propose:

The 100 Books in a Year challenge makes my head spin. That's two books a week! (*slowly shakes her head*) No, I don't think I should set the bar that high, not with my writing schedule and family to consider. The housework is neglected bad enough as it is! Instead, I'll shoot for half of that. 50 Books in 2010. Like the 100 Book Challenge, I'll include all genres as long as it's a book, including fiction, nonfiction, YA, how-to's, poetry collections, short story anthologies, and all the rest.

Below, I'll keep an updated list of my progress. Each time I finish a book, I'll write a review in a blog entry and link it here. And I love discussing books! I encourage any of you to let me know if you've read one of the books I did, and include in your comment whether you enjoyed it, would recommend it, and link a review, if you did one.

My List of Books Read in 2010

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - by Stieg Larsson (2005, Norstedts Forlag [Swedish] -- ISBN 978-1847242532) Read my discussion here.
2. The Almost Moon -- by Alice Sebold (2007, Little, Brown and Company -- ISBN 0316677469)Read my review here.
3. The Hunger Games - by Suzanne Collins (2008, Scholastic Press -- ISBN-13: 978-0-436-02348-1) Read my review here.
4. The Giver - by Lois Lowry (1993, Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books -- ISBN: 0-440-23768-8)
5. Among the Hidden - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2000, Aladdin Paperbacks -- ISBN-13: 9780689824753)
6. Hush Hush - by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9781416989417)
7. Animal Farm - by George Orwell (copyright 1945, Current Pub. Date 1996, Penguin Group (USA) -- ISBN-13: 9780451526342)
8. The Shack - by William P. Young (2008, windblown Media -- ISBN-13: 9780964729230)
9. A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor - by Truman Capote (copyrights in order the short stories are listed here: 1956/1984 by Capote; 1982/1983, by Capote; 1967 by Capote, renewed 1995 by Alan U. Schwartz, Current Pub. Date 1996, Modern Library Edition, Random House, Inc. -- ISBN-0-679-60237-2)
10. Sula - by Toni Morrison (copyright 1973; Reprint Pub. Date 2004, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, ISBN-13: 9781400033430)
11. The Pearl - by John Steinbeck (copyright 1947, Reprint Pub. Date 2002, Penguin Group (USA), ISBN-13: 9780142000694)
12. Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Novel & Three Stories (Modern Library Series) - by Truman Capote (Original copyright 1958; Current Pub. Date January 1994, Random House Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780679600855)
13. Pickles to Pittsburgh - by Judy Barrett (1997; Simon & Schuster Children's --ISBN-13: 9780689801044)
14. Charming Billy - by Alice McDermott (2009; Picador USA -- ISBN-13: 9780312429423)
15. Catching Fire - by Suzanne Collins (2009; Scholastic, Inc. -- ISBN-13: 9780439023498)
16. And Murder for Dessert - by Kathleen Delaney (2009; Poisoned Pen Press -- ISBN-13: 9781615950416)
17. Among the Imposters - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2002; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839085)
18. Among the Betrayed - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2003; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839092)
19. Among the Barons - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2004, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839108)
20. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2005, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689857959)
21. Among the Enemy - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
22. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
23. The Town That Forgot How To Breathe - by Kenneth J. Harvey
24. The Mistress - by Philippe Tapon
25. Mockingjay - by Suzanne Collins
26. Paranormalcy - by Kiersten White
27. Devil Bones - by Kathy Reichs
28. Fallen Knight - by DL Hammon
29. Enzo's Mamma - by Wendy Ramer
30. On Writing - by Stephen King
31. Housekeeping - by Marilynne Robinson
32. Nightshade City - by Hilary Wagner