Tag Archives: reviews

Book Reviewers Wanted!

I’m hoping that readers of this blog will take my request seriously and consider reading to write reviews for the more than 150 Authors I’ve promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations. I posted to that blog today and addressed all the authors there, Reading Recommendations … Spring Cleaning, telling them I’ve cleaned up the lists a bit. I immediately received messages from several of those authors, offering me reciprocal promotion for my own writing, and one also requesting titles he could review.

So I thought I would open this up to everyone, readers included – those who don’t happen to also be authors themselves. I ask that you look through the lists on that blog and consider writing a review of books you may have already read, or let me know if you have written a favourable review of any that I may then repost on the reading recommendations reviewed blog. Or, if you discover an author you’d like to interview or review, let me know and I will help you contact them.

Thanks for any help with this. All we authors need reviews, but most important of all is that we find readers who are interested in reading what we write! If you find some new-to-you authors through this blog of mine then I am very happy indeed!

But if you then tell your friends about this great author and their books, that will be pure magic!!

One Woman’s Island – Fan mail and reviews!

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.

Loved it.

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!

Authors continuing to behave badly …

It seems to be time – again! – to remind some “authors” out there how they should be conducting themselves in the world of promoting their books. Not everyone has bad manners, but there are enough who make it difficult for the rest of us who DO abide by those guidelines and rules and maintain decent behaviour.

This need to reiterate what I’ve railed on about before here came about after a reviewer posted this poem to her own blog – a poem that was actually a cry for help and an oblique explanation of how she’d been treated recently by indie authors she had set herself up to help promote. I reblogged her poem here then wrote to the reviewer directly to tell her I understood what she was going through.

Fortunately, this reviewer’s experience has had a happy (!) ending, or at least her problem has been resolved somewhat, to the point that she posted a follow-up poem this morning on her own blog.

I knew I’d addressed this subject of “Authors Behaving Badly” before, so I typed those words into my blog’s search thingie and found the following two posts written one after the other in Dec. 2014.

So here, for the benefit of Happymeerkatreviews and those authors who continue to behave badly when approaching reviewers and other promoters, are the two posts:

How NOT to get promotion for yourself and your book …


HOW to get promotion for yourself and your book …

Please read and heed. And share this blog if you know authors who could benefit from my advice.

Unfortunately, there are enough authors out there who do behave badly that reviewers and promoters have had to steel themselves from abuse by creating seemingly impenetrable guidelines for submissions, and that just ruins it for the rest of the authors who do approach their own writing, publishing, and promotion in a professional manner. I’ve essentially had to close my Reading Recommendations submissions to anything unsolicited, but I also outline how authors may have their work considered for inclusion. As I say, it’s really as simple as 1-2-3!


On reviews and reviewing

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.

WARNING – SPOILER: This story has a happy ending …

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!)

roughseasinthemed on Reviewing
I’m reviewing …
Views and reviews

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.)

From roughseasinthemed … A blog post, Views and Reviews

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.

The reason I write and publish …

Island in the Clouds

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 …

Authors, don’t ask me to review your books … Please!

I was planning on writing this post when another by M T McGuire (previously featured on Reading Recommendations) popped up this morning. I reblogged Forget selling. Focus on #writing. here and recommend that, if you have not already read this, you go and do so now.

Okay, you’re back? Here’s the thoughts I want to add to that post …

As you know, I create and run Giveaways of my novel on a certain book and reading site, and these have been quite successful in getting the word out about me and my writing. One of the directives in the author agreement with this site is that we will not contact entrants or winners directly, because to do so might be considered harassment and we could be deleted from the site, if we don’t play by the rules. Fair enough, and I’ve stuck by that agreement, even though I’m itching to chat with those who have won copies of my book.

I also enter a lot of contests on this site offered by other authors. I’ve won quite a number of books, too – some very good, some bad, some indifferent. I haven’t read every book I’ve won … yet, but I do plan to get around to reading them, in good time – and when I actually have time! Currently, if all the books I have to read that are loaded on my eBook were suddenly to become print copies, and those books were added to that tower of already-in-print books stacked by my bedside, I’d run the risk of being crushed, if that stack were ever to topple over. I’ll be lucky to get through all the books I want to read in my lifetime, let alone before the end of this year. I have also been beta-reading and editing for a number of friends – reading that takes a special kind of deeper concentration for me than pleasure-reading. Since I’m writing and sending these author-friends my thoughts on their books, and suggestions as to how I think they might be able to make their books better, the last thing I want to do is write a review-on-demand, especially when the book I’ve been asked to review doesn’t really thrill me, in the end. (I make an exception in reviewing books and authors who I really, really enjoy. But I write those reviews, wanting to share these books with other readers, because THE BOOKS ARE SO GOOD!!)

So, imagine my dismay last night when I received a private message on this site from the author of a book I had recently won, asking me to review his book when I finished reading it. Not only did he not follow the prime directives from the site, but he didn’t even look at my profile to see that I, too, am an author with a book or two to promote. I might not have become as incensed by his message had he bothered to say something like, “I see you, too, are an author. When you’ve had a chance to read my book, I’d appreciate it if you’d send me your thoughts. In the meantime, is there any way I can help you to promote your books to my readers?”

In a perfect world, right?

Now, as it stands, I’m not really sure I want to read his book at all, tainted as my opinion is of this author.

You may be thinking, “Aw, give the guy a break. He’s new at this and is just trying to get his book out there.” The thing is, though, that this author is not the only one who has written, published, and is trying to promote his book. There are tens of thousands of them every day who are trying to get someone, anyone, to review their precious words. But, as I’ve said previously on this blog – and many, many times, actually – Dear Writer … it’s not all about you, ya know!.

I have done my fair share of promoting fellow authors over the decades (because that was my job), but have especially concentrated on promoting others since I first ePublished my own novel in Feb., 2012. I even created the blog, Reading Recommendations, to further promote those fellow authors. Some have promoted me and the blog in return, some have favourably reviewed my books or posted an interview with me on their blogs, many have become very good friends – albeit, virtual friends. What I’m trying to say is that it’s been equally as good for me as my promotion has been for them. For some of them. Not all have paid me back in kind, but those who have are still receiving continuing promotion from me. And, throughout this time, the readership has been building for ALL of us, so we have no need to ask each other to read and review books – the reviews are coming in from those readers who are discovering our work through our promotions of each other.

So what this author who asked me to read and review his book doesn’t realize is that, as well as not really wanting to read the book at all now, I also won’t be asking him to join us on my promotion blog. How can I seriously promote an author who hasn’t shown any interest in becoming part of this writing community?

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy … Ask not what Readers and Authors can do for you, ask what you can do for Readers and Authors!

By the way, I deleted his private message without replying and I won’t report him to the powers-that-be at the site. I hope that he, and any other authors who have been guilty of doing the same in requesting reviews, will see this blog post and recognize themselves in it – AND STOP ASKING FOR REVIEWS!!!

Unless they’re willing to read-to-review my books, in which case, let’s talk about promo possibilities, shall we? Otherwise, as M T suggests, Get back to writing! And write a great book that readers will want to read. Which is where I’m heading back to right now, Tim Baker! (previously featured on Reading Recommendations)

See how I slyly slid a little promotion into this post for my fellow authors…

From the archives – If you can’t say anything nice … – Feb. 1, 2010

Following is a post I originally published to this blog in 2010. The subject matter is still relevant.

Mother’s advice has always been, If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. After reading Martin Levin’s article in The Globe & Mail‘s book section on Saturday, You suck, and so does your writing, I considered that, really, a bad or vindictive review of an author or their work speaks so much more about the reviewer than the reviewed – volumes, in fact. Why would someone jump to review a book, or its author, that they knowingly do not like? For the chance to destroy someone’s career, get even, envy of success? It’s certainly not for the free review copy, because if their review shows they hate the book that much, they wouldn’t want to keep it on their shelf for long. And, actually, since there is no such thing as bad publicity, what they’re ultimately doing, even with a scathing review, is drawing attention to exactly what they think doesn’t deserve it. If you want to sink a book and/or its author – don’t say anything about it at all. Much, much more effective. Besides, as I said, a bad review says more about the reviewer, about their motives, the axe they’re grinding, what side of the bed they got out of that morning. If they think they’re being funny or clever, they usually aren’t. Nasty is never funny, nor is it clever.

And the worst, worst, worst thing anyone can ever say in a review is, “This book can’t be that good, or the author at all important, because I’ve never heard of the book or author before.” I know they think that’s supposed to cast aspersions on the reviewed, but what it tells me is that the reviewer was too lazy (or felt themselves to be too important) to bother doing any research.

Two members of my email writing group replied with the following observations:

Gah. Hilarious quotes. But what a way to live, whichever side of the firing line one happens to stand on. If you all don’t mind, I’m going to let your successes and brilliance make me reach higher and deeper, so I deserve to stay in your company. ~ Darcie

Exactly. All that kvetching… What a waste of brilliant artistic energy that would be so much better placed in the writing of a novel about writers kvetching about each other… That it’s all too prevalent in reality is unsettling. Then again, maybe just a kind of sport. Literary jousting. Something to keep the blood circulating after too many hours in the company of semi-colons. ~ Carin

So I will never review a book to slam it or its author. If I don’t like a book, you will never hear it from me, not on this blog. But you can be guaranteed that if I do review something, and say I like and recommend it, or shout-out an author whose work should be noticed and praised, you can believe me. What’s the point of saying something that isn’t nice?