Book Reviews, Deli Style
If you dread seeing pleas for online reviews from your author-friends, you are not alone. Me? I get performance anxiety. Composing a Real Book Review is hard mental work and time consuming.*
Ordering lunch is easy. So I came up with a system. Think of your review as a deli meal. Yes, folks, it’s time for “Build Your Own Book Review!”
Sandwich. Sides. Drink. Make a few choices, and it writes itself.
Bread: all reviews come with stars. Choose 1-5. Don’t worry about hurting feelings. Seriously. The raw number of reviews carries far more weight with the Almighty Search Algorithms than whether they’re positive or negative. That said, 5 stars is the white bread of the review world. Just saying.
Fillings. Pick one or more from as many categories as you want.
This book is
- ______ well worth reading
- ______ suspenseful & fun
- ______ a real thriller
- ______ warm & inspiring
- ______ entertaining
- ______ on my best-of list
- ______ fun but nothing special
- ______ totally skippable
- ______ A bore from beginning to end
- ______ was twisty and full of surprises
- ______ kept me turning pages
- ______ made me think
- ______ was brilliant
- ______ didn’t really move me
- ______ confused me in places
- ______ started well but got boring
- ______ goes nowhere fast
The world-building/main idea
- ______ blew my mind
- ______ was amazing and original
- ______ was well thought-out
- ______ felt tired and predictable
- ______ were flawed and human
- ______ were relatable
- ______ felt real
- ______ really got to me
- ______ acted like real heroes
- ______ never stopped complaining
- ______ were full of themselves
- ______ seemed like tired stereotypes
- ______ sounded real
- ______ had lots of good jokes
- ______ moved the story along
- ______ was stilted and fake
- ______ sounded like speeches
- ______ used too many big words
Side orders: not required, but extras add a little pizazz to your review
- My favorite character/moment/scene ____________________
- The best thing about the book was ____________________
- I really liked____________________
Drink. A little statement to pull the whole review together.
- Give this book a try, you won’t be disappointed.
- Recommended for/as/to________________________
- This is a must-read
- If you like ______________ then you should check this out
- Skip this one if you value your brain cells.
- Only recommend it to your enemies.
Take a look at these popular combos:
House Special: 5 stars! This book is on my best-of the year list. The plot was twisty, the world-building blew my mind, and the characters really got to me. My favorite scene involved a teddy bear and a glue stick, and that’s all I’m saying. If you like funny books full of crazy jokes, snappy dialogue and cute animals, take a look.
The Snark: 2 stars. Skip this book. The world-building is mind-blowing, but the characters spend the whole book complaining and the plot goes nowhere fast. Recommended as an insomnia cure.
Short, Sweet & Simple: 4 stars. I liked this book. The plot kept me turning pages, and the characters felt real. Give it a try.
Now, if you you feel like this is cheating somehow because it’s easy, YOU ARE SO WRONG. Trust me on this. I recommended books for a living for nearly two decades. Sales reviews are about bearing witness. Standing up to be counted. Very few readers go to Amazon or B&N looking for a deeply-pondered journal-style literary critique. They want to know, “Did someone else like this book? Y/N and why.”
Be kind to yourself. Give your favorite authors a huge boost. Go deli style. And if you want to practice, I have a bunch of book listings pining away for reviews right here behind this link: author.to/kmherkes.
*No, really. Reviews are hard. That’s the reason Goodreads lets all members assign star ratings without writing words at all. (My books are listed there, too. Hint. Hint.)
What’s going on with me? I’m SO glad you asked. It has been a while since I did one of these. (Before DragonCon, I think?) Busy month. Why a gargoyle for the pic? WHY NOT?
Books. I read books that weren’t historical romances! Books I enjoyed! Contemporary Fantasy! Steampunk! Exclamation points! I have high fantasy and space opera on my TBR list, but don’t get too excited. It may not get reviewed for months. Okay, here goes;
Convergent Lines. Michelle Cori. Its tagline is A Tale of Gothic Horror, and it definitely has a great gothic feel, but horror makes me think blood & jump-scares. This has a fantastical moodiness, with fae, humans, witchcraft, loads of intricate world-building and history…and so much more. The narrative jumps between the protagonist’s past and present by chapters leading to a major plot development, and it has that “drop you in and let you roll along” approach I adore. (but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.) Not sure if there’s an ebook version of this, so buy the paperback or make your library get it. The cover and the interior decorations are mind-blowingly pretty.
A Desperate Plan (Tales of the Automazombs) Toni Johnson et. al. Steampunk. Zombies. Need I say more? I really don’t. It’s a fun collection of shorter and longer stories that each stand alone but advance a larger plot. Some fine storytelling in a variety of styles. Great hints of reveals to come, but no sense of anything being left unfinished. Ebook and regular book.
A lot of romance got consumed in the last month too, but nothing I would recommend. I must say I seriously wonder if authors who consider “purely masculine scent” to be attractive have ever actually smelled a live man. I’m someone who can find the scent of a sweaty guy appealing, but “masculine scent” still makes me think, “Ew.” Ya know, I think I’ll be moving on now.
Television: Daily Show & Samantha Bee over suppers, and the occasional sportsball game while I peel apples. That’s it. A bunch of shows got boring or cancelled, others haven’t started. Zero interest in The Orville, not paying to watch commercials with ST:Discovery, have to wait for DVD on Game of Thrones. I record Law & Order reruns because I know half of them by heart and specifically watch them so I can tune them out.
Movies: Finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Underwhelmed. I mean, I enjoyed it, I can say, “okay, fun movie,” but the whole Hollywood knee-jerk sequel philosophy of “take everything that was cool in the first one and evolve it” does not now and never has worked for me. Plus I loathed the writing for Drax. Sure, expand our understanding of the character, but literal-minded to clueless is not a personality progression. Neither is there a line from single-minded to impulsively stupid. And Gamora was pretty much sidelined except for the OMG-SIBLING-HATRED thing. And then there’s the whole “why can’t heroes have two normal, living parents?” question…
…so, maybe I mostly didn’t like it. I dunno. Nothing I’ve mentioned will stop me from watching it again a few times.
I watched Wonder Woman again to make sure the DVD worked. Yeah. That’s why.
The latest in re-viewing: disaster flicks. 2012, Day After Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak and San Andreas. Just because. Figured out another reason I love San Andreas: the male teen lead listens to the female teen lead who knows what she’s talking about. Multiple times.
In other news, autumn is apple time, which means day trips into the Wisconsin not-so-wilds in search of all the scrumptious yummies. I’ve already socked away the first of the year’s cider & saucein the big freezer, and the first fruits & cheeses of the season have made into tasty treats. The garden is an exuberant mess of drooping grasses and drying flowers, except for the asters, goldenrod & Joe Pye weed, which are in full glorious bloom.
That’s all for this report. Next post: all about the writing and authoring.
Edited to add a full-length pic of Grawlix the Gargoyle:
Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers.
Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices!
A little of everything in this last go-round.
One Last Quest M. A. Ray. I bought this short on Amazon and gobbled it down that evening, but it’s also being released as a serial on menyoral.com so I’ve been re-visiting it there. Because it’s that good. If you have not yet ventured to the world of Rothganar, make plans now. (I really need to get better about listing the indie ebooks I read along with the print ones. Memory like a steel sieve, that’s what I have.)
Nature’s God Matthew Stewart. Chewed through it. Dense, immense, packed with mind-blowing historical and philosophical material.
The Royal Sentinel L Davidson. It’s the sequel to the Redwood Rebel, which I reviewed on this blog ages ago. (obligatory link here) Royal Sentinel being released as a serial too. Follow it on the author’s blog or on Wattpad.
The latest in fluff: Lady Claire Is All That Maya Rodale, The Trouble With Dukes & The Heir Grace Burrowes
Side note: I logged a bunch o’ books into Goodreads. (go, organization!) I’m at 60% of last year’s total already, and the year isn’t half done. (35 books to last year’s total of 50, for the numbers people.) Kinda highlighted for me how bad last year truly was. And how much time I was wasting on channel-surfing the internet. I mean, I knew, but…yeah. Doing more feels better. Yay.
TV & Movies
Moana. Loved it. LOVED IT. So many quotable lines. I didn’t even mind the songs. The song Shiny is a fabulous David Bowie homage. And Maui at one point says, “If you start singing, I’m going to throw up.”
Inferno. Based on a not-so-good Dan Brown novel. (like most Dan Brown novels, the plot pivots on a premise so flawed I cannot stomach the rest of it.) The movie? BADDER. SO BAD.
Ben-Hur: The Remake. AKA Ben-Hur the Cliff’s Notes edition with God voiceover, Ben-Hur the Pretty People version, Ben-Hur re-imagined by committee… It was horrible. The plot is less historically accurate, less theologically accurate, AND less true to the original book than the Charlton Heston movie, a feat I didn’t think possible.
Still watching Grand Tour with Spouseman. Episode 4 is the big winner so far. Silly, silly, fun. And Jeremy Clarkson admitted that Porsches are fantastic. So there.
Spent a half-day off on a celebratory “Woo-hoo, Spouseman is done with radiation treatment” trip to the botanic garden. Results: many pretty pictures, fresh air, exercise and actual appetite, and (later) wipeout exhaustion. Deli overload celebration meal was also a success. I took zero food pictures, and the leftovers made for delicious lunches and dinners.
Spring means I start eating pickles with everything. I don’t know why. I crave pickles and fresh mushrooms too, actually. Luckily Makes me glad almost any veggie can be quick-pickled (except greens. I would not recommend pickled kale. Or spinach.) ANYway. Green beans, peas, corn niblets, red peppers…all of ’em go in the fridge jar.
Scones. I have made so many different kinds of scones lately. So. Many. Why haven’t I made chocolate chip cherry ones yet? That will have to happen soon. <cue music>
How I celebrate that it’s almost Real Spring: I bought my summer bulbs. Dahlias and gladiolas, mostly. I know I could dig up glads and the dahlias in the fall and overwinter them, but…I never do. I picked up a big bag of mixed Asian lilies this year too. It’s time to bump up the color variety. They come back every year, but every year more and more of them are orange. I thought I might be mis-remembering, but no. I checked old photos. Yellows and pinks and white. Last year. ORANGE EVERYWHERE. This year I am going for a bit more variety.
And that’s a wrap.
Not tired of my words yet? You could always buy something I wrote. Check out this page to judge all my books by their covers. Or head straight to Amazon, if that’s your preference.
New month, new doings.
You Are Not So Smart David McRaney. It’s a phenomenal primer on a ton of psychological concepts and logical fallacies that trip up everyone. (I especially like the one that makes people immediately think, “well, not everyone–I bet I’m immune,” when reading the previous sentence.)
It was a tough read, not because it was technical — far from it. It’s adapted from a blog, so the tone is easygoing, congenial, and friendly. No, it was tough because it is written in second person present. You do this. You think that.
Gawdingus, I LOATHE second person present unless it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Exception, that. Otherwise, it’s a total pain to slog through. <shudder> If it hadn’t been so damned interesting and if I wasn’t such a stubborn cuss, I would have dropped it like a hot rock after five grating chapters out of forty-eight.
I finished it, and I’m glad. The brain programming tripwires are easier to avoid after getting reminders of their existence. I would recommend it to everyone struggling with family members and friends who insist on unbelievable things.
It won’t make dealing with them any easier, but it will make their positions less bewildering. (and it does suggest coping strategies. Strategy is good.)
Craving: Why We Can’t Seem To Get Enough Omar Manejwala. I hoped this would make a good partner book to You Are Not So Smart, but alas, no. It failed to live up to my hopes in all possible ways.
This is probably an excellent book–the author is clearly knowledgeable, the topic is complex, and every chapter is packed with points worth deep examination (among them the blurry zone between desire and addiction and which coping mechanisms work) but it was too busy being dignified to ever be enjoyable.
Worse, like YANSS it was written in 2nd person present, and its tone flirted with condescension when it wasn’t aloof and snotty. <flops and twitches> Only sheer annoyance and talking back to the pages got me through it. And I didn’t come away with a single epiphany or even a gee-whiz moment. So disappoint.
Archangel’s Heart Nalini Singh. Fiction recovery book! Latest in a growing series in a contemporary alternate-reality. Angels are real, and archangels, and vampires, and they’ve all co-existed together throughout history. It’s (occasionally steamy) romance, although this one is less explicit than most others. I love the world, the characters and the unfolding history are lovely.
Yeah, that’s it on books. I was busy with other Other Things.
NCIS marathon continues. The rest of the television lineup: Victoria, Madame Secretary, Expanse (woo, it’s BACK!) Gotham, Supergirl, Supernatural, and current NCIS, which I probably won’t keep past the ed of this season unless there are big writing changes. And Spouseman & I will be giving Riverdale a try as a together-watch as soon as we finish working through Mozart In The Jungle.
Coloring! Spouseman got me The Sweary Coloring Book for Christmas, my friend Deb donated colored pencils to the cause, and I finally tackled it this weekend. I colored the cover first, and completed two interior pages. The drawings are pretty simple, so it isn’t a technically challenging exercise. It is soothing, though, and it keeps me off Facebook.
I would have colored more, but I learned the cramp way my hand muscles are out-of-shape. WAY out of shape. Given practice I should be able to work my way up to a page per sitting.
Concert! (Do you like the exclamation points? I’m feeling emphatic for some reason.) Instead of seeing Resident Evil The Final Chapter or whatever it’s being called–as was tentatively planned — Spouseman & I went to watch Northwest Symphony Orchestra play Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Strauss. It’s our local music organization, and we started picking up season tickets a few years ago when they moved into our area.
Live classical music got much more fun once I stopped stressing about dressing for concerts and made my peace with the reality that I will nod off. It’s a problem with large shifts in psychological arousal. Make me sit still in a darkened room, and I will have to “sleep.” Fighting the drowsiness until I lose consciousness is uncomfortable and stressful, plus when I lose (and I will lose) I will drop into true sleep. But if I let myself just drowse off, I will come back alert and energized in less than five minutes.
Stealth snoozing. It worked. Spouseman and I had a wonderful time.
That’s all the all there is until next time.