Category Archives: Review
And definitely not from some flounder!
But this is what I can call a message I really like!
Not all readers like to write reviews and post them online, and I get that! So I will never ask anyone to review my books or post their thoughts if they don’t wish to do so.
However, I do know many readers, especially friends, like to tell me their thoughts and impressions about my books after they’ve read something I’ve written. They quite often write to me privately in an email, or they tell me in person when I meet up with them. So I then ask if I may post their comments to my blog, and will do so anonymously, if that’s what they wish.
Here are comments from two friends who had previously read Island in the Clouds and have now told me what they think of One Woman’s Island …
Friend #1 (received by email):
I loved reading One Woman’s Island. I enjoyed it so much that at one point, I wished the story wouldn’t end! I appreciated that Marianne was such a strong character. She believed in her values and did not cave in when she encountered opposing views. Keep writing, Sue. I look forward to your next book. Violet
Friend #2 (From a conversation):
I enjoyed the development of the characters, particularly Tex, who I had no sympathy with initially, but came to like him. Mariana reflects the views of a lot of people who come to the island, who are invasive and intrusive, and get it all wrong. She irritated the hell out of me and at times I wanted to slap her! I really enjoyed the change in speed between life on Bequia and the slow pace of the tranquil garden in several scenes. There should be a place like that on this island where people can sit in private and not be overheard, enjoying a coffee or tea completely out of sight. (smt: Well, there is my own verandah at The View. Although I do quite like my imagined garden in the novel.) I actually felt that what you’ve done is left enough strings untied that what I want most is to read the next book.
Friend #1 has visited us on Bequia, but I have known her since 1979, shortly after we moved to Calgary. We have been friends ever since. She is an artist and has always encouraged my writing.
Friend #2 owns a house on Bequia and has been coming to the island for many years. She’s supported my books wholeheartedly and keeps print copies in her house for rental guests to read. (And if you’re thinking of coming to Bequia, I do recommend you check out this friend’s house – send me an email for details.)
Both women are avid readers, so I am particularly flattered by their comments.
As well, I received a wonderful review of my book from author and friend, Timothy Phillips. (The link will take you to his promotion on my blog.) He did post to both Amazon and Facebook, but I just had to share with you here what he has said:
I was fortunate to read Susan Toy’s first book, Island in the Clouds. This is set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and murders will take place – guaranteed. We don’t have to wait long – a body turns up floating in the swimming pool almost on page one. It’s an exciting read all the way through.
Toy’s second book is also set in Bequia, which is where she resides for half the year. She knows the island intimately and she knows the people, both the ex-pat community and locals and has weaved this backdrop effectively into her story. We will have to wait a third of the way into her book before we have full proof of skullduggery and mischief. Yet, right from the beginning, we have ominous warning of some malevolent presence of things to come through the almost incoherent rambling conversation of three children. So, we’re prepared to wait. It reminds me of the witches’ scene in Act One, Scene One of Macbeth.
We all, especially if we live in the cold North, have images in our mind of paradise on earth – a warm sunny climate, pristine beaches, plentiful exotic fruits, smiling locals speaking in a patois that has a lilting and colourful charm – easy to be enchanted here, nice place to visit. Might even consider moving here if suddenly there was upheaval in one’s life.
That happens to the protagonist, Mariana who has come to Bequia with her two cats for an extended visit to mend from a marriage that ended. She’s naive but well-intentioned – perhaps she’s enervated by sunshine and dazzled by vibrant blue skies. She wants to contribute meaningfully and yet her perception of life on the island through seemingly rose-tinted spectacles is far different from reality.
The tension in Toy’s story builds magnificently, the main characters are intriguing colourful individuals and she develops them masterfully. There are few that will predict the outcome of the story and we are left guessing right to the end.
Toy is an interested foodie and has obviously experimented with local dishes. At the end of some chapters, she has included the recipes for these. It gives one a chance to take a breath and reminds me of the opportunity to stretch, get a snack or an ice cream at Intermission. One needs that.
And I loved your review, Tim! Thank you so much for reading and telling everyone! I especially like the reference you made to Macbeth – Nice!
If anyone else has read and enjoyed any of my books, but is kind of shy about putting their comments out there, your secret identity is safe with me! Just send me an email, susanmtoy (at) gmail.com, tell me what you think, and give me permission to post either with your name or without. As I said in a blog post I wrote earlier this year, A small request of all my readers …
Thank you, to all readers, from the bottom of my heart!
Blogger, Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, has been a great support to me and of my writing since we first “met” through another blog. (I think we began by discussing the problems surrounding the virus Chikungunya that I had contracted, and the conversation continued to cover eradicating mosquitoes, travel in the Caribbean, and my first novel.) Philmouse, as I now call this blogger, wrote an extremely complimentary review of Island in the Clouds, and was kind enough to read an advance copy of my new novel, One Woman’s Island, and provide me with an excellent review.
So excellent, in fact, that I pulled a blurb-worthy extract from that and am using it now in my advertising and promotion materials for both novels published so far in the Bequia Perspectives series.
Philmouse also recently posted to her blog and wrote about both books in an extremely flattering way. (Link below.)
Instead of just reblogging this post on my own blog, I thought it fitting to give you this little bit of background, above, and offer a giveaway of the eBook version of my new novel to celebrate Philmouse’s kind words!
We’ve decided to make you work a bit before you may enter. The winner’s name will be drawn from all correct replies we receive here on this blog. In order to enter, answer the following 2-part question correctly (Both parts must be correct!)
What is Philmouse’s actual first name and which city does he/she live close to?
The astute will read the clues I’ve placed in this blog post and should be able to discover the correct answers in at least one of the attached files. Good luck!
Here’s the beginning of Philmouse’s post:
Wind in her hair. Departing wishes
Chilling north wind whips her hair. She stands for it. Faces it head on. Can’t rip the genetic memories out of her.
Those dreams took root generations ago – in the warm Caribbean trade winds far far away. As an immigrant, she has done her best to “grow where you are planted”, but suburban life leaves her cold and longing. Her paradise lost.
“Do humans ever feel this?” she wonders. “Probably not.”
And again she tossed her fronds high – reaching for all the stories the wind was bringing from home.
I’ve written about book clubs in the past and talked about their necessity and importance, not only for club members but also for we authors who are trying to get attention for our books. I don’t belong to a book club myself, but I did recently publish a guest post on my blog from Felicity Harley, titled My two book clubs and why I love them. Felicity pretty well sums up the reasons most readers join book clubs. I know the camaraderie and a shared interest in reading and books are the main reasons I’ve heard others have joined them. And definitely, having your book read by a book club, or being invited as a guest author to a meeting to speak about your book, are certainly the reasons why most authors I know love book clubs!
I was thinking about recommending books this morning, about how we as readers hear about “what to read next” and how book clubs figure into the bigger picture of promoting our books to more readers. My mind was working in the way it usually does (and I know bjH is probably nodding her head right now in recognition, thinking to herself, “Oh, no, Susan. Not again …) and one thought about book clubs and their members led to another thought of how those book clubs could help spread the word further than to just their immediate membership about the books they’ve enjoyed.
What if book clubs were to take their discussion another step and post a review of a book they’ve discussed? That review could be posted to Goodreads or Amazon or the local library’s website. Anywhere online, really, as long as it catches the attention of more readers. And this review could be whatever the club decides, by whomever wishes to write it. But it should be a consensus of the members’ opinions and perhaps include some of the more important points of discussion during the meeting.
This way the book club would receive some public recognition and, trust me, those authors whose books are reviewed would be tickled pink! It’s one thing knowing that 10 or 12 club members have enjoyed what you’ve written. But if the club chooses to also share the news of their enjoyment with the reading public in general .. Well, then! Let me just say that I for one would be ecstatic if I suddenly saw a review on Goodreads posted by a book club that chose to read and discuss my book! (Besides which, we don’t always know a club has chosen to read our books in the first place. Just knowing that has happened would make me happy!)
So, is this idea do-able? Are there book club members out there reading this now who would be willing to suggest my proposal to their club, and possibly act on reviewing books publicly that they’ve read and discussed previously?
Another place where I’d be more than happy to post positive reviews from book clubs of any Reading Recommendations-promoted authors they’ve discussed is on my review blog, reading recommendations reviewed. (Authors I’ve promoted on Reading Recommendations are listed here and here. I also recommend you check through those two lists if you’re looking for ideas on which books and authors to discuss next.)
Please do share this post online, through social media and your blogs, but especially directly with any book clubs you know that might take me up on my suggestion. I’ve noticed there are book club blogs online, as well. I think they might like this concept. And please remember too that many public libraries and book stores also host book club discussions!
I don’t need to tell anyone reading this blog post that we authors manage to survive and keep writing through receiving good reviews that attract more new readers to our work. A positive review coming from a group of happy readers would constitute a major endorsement for many of us.
(So what do you think, bjH? A good idea this time?)
Yes, I know this news is going to be hard to believe, but after 4 years in publication (both as an eBook and in print) Island in the Clouds will finally have a sister-novel to share your shelf or space on your eReader! I finished writing an umpteenth draft of One Woman’s Island a week-and-a-half ago and now it’s in the hands of my editor, Rachel Small. I think at this point in time, after writing and rewriting the story of Mariana on Bequia these past 12 years, I’m more relieved than excited. Now comes the ultra hard work of preparing the final edited manuscript for ePublication, sometime later this year.
That publication date has been moved back further, however, because yesterday I discovered this link to a competition for which the new novel qualifies. But the novel needs to be unpublished. Might as well give that a shot first, I thought. What is there to lose? Other than more time before I can actually publish it.
So, while I wait for the edit to be completed and the MS to be prepared for submission to this contest, I figured it was as good a time as any to promote my writing in general, and build more awareness of the Bequia Perspectives Novels as well as my IslandShorts novella, That Last Summer. And this brings me around to my “request” in the blog post title …
If you have read either Island in the Clouds or That Last Summer (or both!) and enjoyed reading them – but you haven’t yet posted a review online about either, I would appreciate you doing so now, on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, your library’s website, or your own blog. I’m hoping to build up awareness for my writing in general so when I begin promoting the publication of One Woman’s Island I have a solid fan base in place who will do the heavy-lifting of informing and, hopefully, exciting different readers about the new book. If you have already posted something to do with me or my writing on your own blog I have likely added that link to this page or this one. If your interview or review are not listed there, please let me know so I can include you. (Also, now available as an eBook, One Woman’s Island!)
Now, I know some readers are shy and don’t want their thoughts and opinions posted in public, and especially not online. I appreciate and understand that feeling! If you have read my books though and enjoyed them enough to want to tell me about that enjoyment, then please send me an email (susanmtoy (at) gmail.com). Your review can be as brief as you’d like to make it. And I promise never to divulge your name if you want to remain anonymous, but do let me know if I may post and quote your comments on my blog – without your name attached! – so potential readers have a chance to see what “someone” thinks of my books and my writing. Whatever you decide, please do write and tell me whatever it is that you think. The best way for any author to improve is to listen to comments made by their readers. After all, it’s you we’re writing for in the first place!
What I hope to achieve by all this, of course, is a build-up of word-of-mouth promotion. You who are already satisfied readers will become, I hope, the foot soldiers in my campaign to promote the new book. If you DO want me to quote you in future publicity then let me know I may use your name. A review with a real name has so much more credibility, and I’ll be using the best of those as bullets (not real gun bullets, of course!) and endorsements when I finally do release the next book in my Bequia series.
The other way for you to become involved in this promotion campaign of mine is by telling your friends about my books, and encouraging them to read what I’ve already published. Then, if they like what they read, they will anticipate the future publication of my books. A readership is something we authors build one reader at a time … and by writing books readers enjoy reading.
So thanks to everyone for reading through my post, and for any help you may be able to offer.
And remember … I am but one author out here who is writing and publishing. There are many, many others who can also use a hand in the promotion of their books. Never discount the effect your personal recommendation has on any book you read and enjoy. Please don’t keep that enjoyment to yourself – tell others about it! An author’s success may just depend on your initial recommendation! (I feel so strongly about this concept that I created the Reading Recommendations blog.) And for those of you who would like to take this a step or two further, here are 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love.
Thanks for reading – and commenting and reviewing! I could never have come this far without all of you loyal readers, and I appreciate every single one of you!
My novel, Island in the Clouds, recently received a second 2-star review on a book review site. I’m okay with the rating, because I know not everyone will enjoy my writing so this was a little jolt of reality to counter all those 4-and-5-stars I had been receiving since I first published the book in February of 2012.
What caused me to take exception with the reviewer was that she had listed my novel in the “Thriller” category – which it is not – then complained that it had not been “thriller” enough. Worse though was that she recounted much of the plot line, right down to the ending, taking away any potential suspense readers may have discovered for themselves, had they a mind to read my book, in spite of the low rating and this reviewer’s comments. She did not include a “May Contain Spoilers” warning.
I know I can’t, or shouldn’t, say anything to the reviewer, nor do I think I should complain to the site where this was posted. I have to hope this particular review remains buried within the 31 other very-positive text reviews my book has received, as well as the many blog visits, reviews and interviews I’ve enjoyed over these past three-and-a-half-years promoting this book. (And I just know you’re all going to rush over to that site now to read the review for yourselves! Go ahead. I don’t mind, because I’d like you to give me more feedback on this subject below, in the comments section, after you finish reading the rest of this blog post.)
What bothered me most about this particular reviewer, though, was that she really does not know how to write a review. While some of the points she made about my book did strike me as logical (and I do take any criticism under consideration as I write further books in this series), she was kind of all over the map, so I’m not sure how she came up with 2 stars instead of 3 or even 1; she did seem to generally like reading the book, and there were apparently a few redeeming features. Anyway, about the “Thriller” categorization confusion … I’ve now discussed with my editor, Rachel Small, the idea to list the next novel as “Literary Fiction with a dash of Mystery” and hope that disspells any confusion as to my intentions in writing this series. (The next novel definitely is more LitFic, while Island was more Mystery. Neither is a “Thriller”, however.)
So I thought this was as good a time as any to write a blog post about Reviews and Reviewing – how to write a review (how to read a book to write a comprehensive review), how to read a review (as an author) to always get the most from it that will help improve your writing, whether we need reviews in the first place, and what reviews mean to potential readers. About a year ago, I had compiled a list of interesting links to do with these topics, so I present these to you now. Also, I have been discussing this topic with roughseasinthemed, a professional editor, journalist, and reviewer of books. She will have more to say on her own blog, but I’ve listed links to two blog posts she wrote previously that I remembered when the problem of this particular review came to my attention.
And now, here’s how you may become involved in the discussion … Please read through the links I’ve posted below then add to the conversation – especially if you are yourself a book reviewer (either professional [i.e. you are paid to review] or as a blogger). What advice would you give to anyone wishing to review our books? Has an author ever contacted you about a review you’ve posted asking that you edit the content? And, Authors, have you ever had to complain about a review for its content? For those of you who have read this particular review of Island in the Clouds, do you think I’m being too sensitive or do you think the reviewer revealed too much of the plot?
(NB. I’m not talking about malicious reviews or trolls or bullies here. Those reviewers deserve their own particular corner of Hell! I don’t believe my reviewer was being at all malicious – she just did not know how to write a book review. So please focus on this type of review and reviewer in your comments. Thanks!)
Do We Really Need Book Reviews?
What’s a Book Review Really Worth? from BookMarketingBuzzBlog
When reviews really matter … from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo
Do Read-and-Review Programs Really Work? from Indies Unlimited
On how to write a book review
How to Write a Book Review from Susan Finlay Writes
Get in on the planning stages and learn how you may help an author before their book is published
Pay it Forward – Beta Reading from Dylan Hearn’s Suffolk Scribblings
Authors, how you may want to deal with your readers … or perhaps not
What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online? from Tara Sparling Writes
Learn something about the publishing business so you know why your book is not receiving reviews, or being badly reviewed …
Publishing Facts You Probably Don’t Know from BookMarketingBuzzBlog
And specifically for Self-Published Authors …
From Tara Sparling Writes:
What Makes Me Buy A Self-Published Book?
What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books?
What Puts Readers Off Self-Published Books?
For those of you who base your reading selections on what sells best …
The 100 Bestselling Used Books Since 2000 from AbeBooks.com (Presumably, these books were well-reviewed when they were released.)
Thanks to blogger/reviewer/editor, roughseasinthemed, for inviting me to answer questions about reviews and contribute to this thoughtful post she has written on the subject, Views and Reviews. Please do read what roughseas, T.B. Markinson and I have to say on the subject. Make a comment there while you’re at it. We’d love to hear what you think about reviews – whether you are an author or a reviewer of books.
Also, check out the original post roughseas wrote in July 2014, I’m reviewing … on what a professional reviewer considers when reviewing books.
And, last but not least, you may read roughseas’ review of my novel, Island in the Clouds, here.
It’s never been about the money (because, as I have said before, you’re more likely to win the Irish Sweepstakes than make much money at all in this publishing game), and it’s not about the fame (similar reason as for the money part).
It’s because I believe I have a story worth telling and that I’m the only one who can tell that story the way I’ve chosen to tell it.
But it’s mostly because I love to think that someone out there who has read what I’ve written will be touched by it in some way – hopefully in a positive way! – and that my story makes them think, feel, and experience something they would not have otherwise known, had I not written.
Someone like Heartny, for instance, who I met online through my blog when she commented on one of the posts I wrote about Chickungunya, as she too was suffering with the virus. We struck up an email conversation over the months and before I left Canada in early December to return to Bequia I sent her a print copy of my novel, Island in the Clouds. Imagine my extreme delight when I received this email comment (and I post here with her permission):
I had received your book last year around Christmas and I wanted to thank you so much for the beautiful gift …
Right before the book arrived, I had a major heart break and I was feeling really sad … So the book brought me some light and joy when I needed them the most … Thank you Susan.
I just couldn’t do many daily things like writing emails, eating, sleeping, and so on … So please forgive me that it took such a long time to write you a thank you email.
Now my heart feels better, I finally was able to go back to my normal routine and started reading the book, and I really like it … It is so cold in New York today. Now I can dream of the island in the clouds.
Thank you so much once again Susan.
Receiving an email like this, and from another reader who came to me through my Chikungunya posts (A from the UK, as I refer to him) – both previously unknown to me, plus the many personal comments and messages I’ve received from other readers, is far better than any number of reviews on Amazon or any other sites – because they’ve taken the time to tell me directly that reading my books has touched these people personally.
As an author, I think you just can’t ask for anything better than that!
I thank these readers especially though because it’s comments like theirs that encourage me to keep writing …
I’m so busy promoting other authors all the time that I don’t get around to tooting my own horn about my books or myself as often as I possibly might do. So it always comes as a great surprise and delight to me whenever any of these authors I’ve been promoting in turn offers me some means of getting my name out there or posts a review of one of my books!
And I recently received a second 5-star review from Tricia Drammeh, this time after she read my novel, Island in the Clouds! Here’s the link to that review on Goodreads. The first 5-star review Tricia wrote was for my novella, That Last Summer, and you may read that review by clicking here. Tricia Drammeh will be featured on Reading Recommendations later this week.
And, still available until Nov. 1st, you may enter the Goodreads Giveaway I’m running to win one of 5 print copies of Island in the Clouds or – if you prefer an eBook edition, comment on this blog post to win either the novel or the novella. It’s as simple as that!
To see a complete list of reviews of my books and interviews I’ve done, please click here.
Wow!! There is no better way to begin a Saturday morning (or any morning!) than by opening not one but two emails in which the senders have notified you of reviews they’ve written of your book!
Many thanks to roughseainthemed for writing and posting to her blog this very thorough review:
Thank you as well to A., a UK reader who wishes to remain anonymous. He contacted me after reading Island in the Clouds to tell me he had bought and read the book while on Bequia for a holiday this past spring. He has given me permission to post the full review from his email on my blog:
Island in the clouds is a gripping murder mystery story set on the small Caribbean island of Bequia.
The story isn’t what you expect and is all the better for it!
I loved how Toy doesn’t just portray life on the island as some blissful paradise but goes for life as it is which makes the novel feel very authentic. The characters are drawn from across the full spectrum of island life and Toy expertly develops and blends them as the plot progresses. The twist and turns throughout are managed perfectly and this is a book that you won’t want to put down.
I was on holiday with my family in Bequia whilst I was reading Island in the Clouds. This meant the places quickly resonated and we were able to track most of the locations down during our stay. The book really enhanced our visit to Bequia providing context and a backdrop to our holiday and a narrative from which to explore. Without it we would never have discovered Nando’s restaurant, known about Moonhole or the history behind Frangi’s.
I had this on Kindle and whilst in Bequia purchased a print copy from the bookshop in Port Elizabeth. Not surprisingly this has been top of my friends wish lists since we’ve been back!
In summary a great story in its own right but an absolute must for anyone visiting Bequia to really unlock everything on the island to you.
This review in particular really pleases me because, unlike the concerns voiced by some early readers that my story of murder and incompetent police would scare away potential tourists from the island, A. is telling us that he used my novel as a kind of guidebook and discovered aspects of Bequia he might not otherwise have learned about during his holiday. And he’s recommending the book to his friends!
For me, it doesn’t get any better than that!
So, thank you again to roughseainthemed and A.intheUK for reading and recommending Island in the Clouds, and for making many points in both their reviews that will now assist me while writing the next novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series. I take all comments seriously and know that reviewers help me become a better writer.
While I have your attention, allow me to post links to two interviews that bloggers conducted with me recently:
Allan Hudson on South Branch Scribbler – 4Q Interview with award-winnning author Susan Toy
Tricia Drammeh on Authors to Watch – Interview with Susan M. Toy
As many of you know, I have written and self-published a novel, Island in the Clouds, and a novella, That Last Summer, and I’ve been promoting both through whatever means I can – mainly on social media and by advertising locally on Bequia and in Minden, where the stories are set. But I’ve mainly been depending on word-of-mouth promotion, hoping that readers who enjoy reading what I’ve written will tell their friends about these books, either directly or by reviewing the books and commenting on them on social media, on Amazon, on Goodreads, etc. This has been working well, enabling me to get the word out there much further than if I were to personally contact every person I know.
But I do realize that many, many more people have read my books than are telling me or their friends about having read them. I’ve given away copies in contests, through my blog and on Goodreads, I’ve sent free eBooks to bloggers and travel or book sites, and I’ve gifted many print copies of the novel to many more people – all in the hope that they will not only enjoy reading what I’ve written, but also that they will then take that a step further and review/tell a friend about the books.
I would like to thank those who have taken the time to review online or who have sent me an email with your thoughts about the books. I’ve compiled everything here in an Online Reviews and Comments PDF (scroll down to What Readers are saying about Island in the Clouds!) Your support and enthusiasm has been overwhelming and much appreciated!
However, I would like to throw out a challenge to anyone else who has not yet reviewed either of my books online or by sending me a direct message: Please consider writing something now and posting it. Even if you didn’t enjoy either of the books all that much, tell me why that was the case. Authors just want their work to be read, and we thrive and survive on Readers telling us what we did right or wrong in our writing. If you do not feel comfortable putting your comments out there for all the world to see, I would even appreciate receiving a private email with your thoughts. It all helps me to improve my writing.
And it helps to attract new readers to my writing … so here’s the Review Challenge for you to consider – If you have read my books, please recommend them to another friend who you think will enjoy them. Then ask them to do the same and recommend it to another of their friends. Pass on your copy if you need to do so in order to convince them it’s worth reading. While I’d love it if everyone bought their own copies to read, I completely understand lending as a means of interesting readers who don’t know about me. I’m even willing to send out free eBook copies to anyone who would like to read and review either book. If you, or a friend, are willing to do that, please contact me. susanmtoy (at) gmail.com
I hope this idea doesn’t sound like desperation-for-reviews on my part. What I’m really trying to get across here is how important word-of-mouth promotion is to ALL authors, whether self-or-traditionally published. I know! I was a sales rep for publishers during my career, and the best-selling books were always those that I could personally recommend as having read and enjoyed myself. (Plus, I can be a very convincing sales person at times …) I now very dutifully read and rate/review many books on Goodreads, and I occasionally post a review on Amazon, but I also publish an Author Promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, so I believe I am still doing my bit to get the word out there for my fellow authors.
So, what are you going to do about this? Are you willing to take up my challenge? I would be ecstatic if every reader who has read either of my books were to recommend just one to another reader! And, if each of you were to review those books or send me an email with your comments, as well … You will have made this particular author very, very happy!!
Authors, please feel free to share this blog post and encourage your readers to become part of a challenge to spread the word about your own books – and all authors and their books!