Category Archives: Book Reviews

Writing Reviews Equals Selling Power

Going into a purchase blind isn’t something people usually do nowadays. More and more, buyers look for the stars before shelling out their hard earned cash. And rightfully so, as nothing stinks worse than spending your dough on subpar products.

However, I look beyond the stars to the review itself. I want to know why people love–or hate–a product. I want to know how it fits and how it holds up. I want to know the nitty-gritty as well as the undying lust. In short, reviews are the cyber-sphere’s version of word of mouth.

So, do your fellow buyers a favor and review the products you’ve purchased. Be honest, but not callous. Or, conversely, not all gushy-mushy. Give solid reasons for your likes and dislikes. Share whether you would purchase the product again or whether you’d buy it for your Aunt Harriet. Lastly, don’t forget to mention the reason why.

The why is the key to a good review.

  • Super cute, but the craftsmanship seems shoddy. The sole separated from the shoe within a week.
  • The skirt was the perfect length for my 5’2″ frame. Too often mini skirts on me are maxi sized.
  • The phone case actually fit my LG G2. I had to search long and hard to find one that works for Verizon’s special size. (True story, which begs the question: Verizon, why is your version a different size than every other carrier’s? Seriously.)
  • Despite keeping me glued to every page, the end of this novel was a disappointment. I didn’t like that the story had no real resolution–not unless I buy the next novel in the trilogy.
  • The mugs were broken when I received them. The supplier immediately resent new ones, which my mother-in-law loves because they are smaller than most giving her time to drink her coffee before it cools.
  • Likeable characters, but no real depth. The perfect beach read that you can walk away from when you’re done.

Solid reasons that neither gush nor shame. Rather, they have a mixture of both. Now, as a buyer, I can pick and choose which products will likely satisfy me. And so can you. But only if people leave reviews for us to sort through.

Only if you and I take the time to review the products we buy.

Do negative reviews scare you away from buying a product? What types of information do you find most helpful in a review? Least helpful? Are you a reviewer, or more of a reader of reviews?

From the author standpoint, it’s been said that it takes 20 reviews (good, bad or indifferent) to impact sales and draw readers toward your writing. How do you garner reviews for your writing?

Curious minds want to know.

Inspired to Give A Book Away

Baseball season is once again in full swing. On Monday, Middle Son played against the team whose coach inspired my short story in The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse.

The coach was just as obnoxious and demeaning as he was a year ago. He barked at the kids and undercut their self-esteem. Nobody could run fast enough, catch well enough or play good enough for him. The only thing he taught his players was poor sportsmanship.

I guess you can’t teach an old curmudgeon new manners. Nor can you change the emotional frenzy that surrounds little league games.

But, what happens when the outcome actually matters?  What happens when the fate of the world rests on the score of a single game?

You can find out by reading Little League in The Fall. While perusing this anthology, you’ll be surprised by the multitude of ways in which humanity lies on the brink of extinction. And with luck, you’ll discover some cool new authors with full-length novels coming to a bookstore near you.

To win your free copy of The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse,

  1. leave a comment on this post so I know you’re interested,
  2. email me a request (pretty simple for the socially shy),
  3. or share the give-away on any social media you like to engage in. Just send me an email with the information on where you posted it. Use #FreeFall on twitter so I can find your mention.

Better yet, if you have already read either Spring Fevers or The Fall, you can enter to win a free copy of BOTH summer anthologies from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. Summer’s Edge and Summer’s Double Edge are slated for release in June.

All you have to do is write an honest review of either anthology–or any of the short stories within them–and send me an email link to your review. Every review is a potential winner regardless of commentary. I want to know what moves you as a reader.

*the deadline for all comments/shares/emails is May 30th*

  • Contestants must possess a US address for ease of delivery.
  • Winners will be picked via a random drawing.
  • Winners will be contacted via email–thus making it uber important to leave your email address where I can find it  (such as in an email to catwoods.writer@gmail.com). I promise your email will not be used for anything other than congratulatory purposes. Pinky swear.

Looking for other great giveaways?

I have yet to find a reliable Sci-Fi/Fantasy blog/site that has a good collection of giveaways. If anyone knows of one, please let me know and I will add it.

In fact, let me know all your go-to spots for your favorite giveaways.  

Curious minds want to know!

And Down the Rabbit Hole We Go.

And Down the Rabbit Hole We Go..

Just got word that my most anticipated book of the season has shipped. UPS better hurry or I might just explode

Kudos to R.K. Lewis on his gritty debut novel UNTOLD DAMAGE.

Hurricane Sandy Delays Apocalypse for Local Author

Okay, that local author would be me, and I don’t live anywhere near the East Coast. However, my publisher, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, was hit hard by the hurricane that ravaged areas of New England, effectively bumping The Fall‘s birth date by nearly a week.

Slated for release on October 29, a power outage for the indie publisher put the brakes on the release of The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. This collection of short stories features everything the end of the world should feature: zombies, war, plague, human sacrifice, a heavenly mistake and a short story by me.

Thirteen talented writers from across the globe contributed to this stunning compilation of post-apocalyptic tales written for mature YA readers and adults.

Get your copy of The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse here.

 

Frivilous Friday: Swapping Seasons

I know it’s fall. Despite my confession on Wednesday that I’m unobservant, I do get that the leaves are changing and the temps are dropping. Fall is in the air. And soon, THE FALL will be on sale.

While the digital revolution has changed the way stories are shared, one author, editor and publisher holds on to the love of short stories and strives to share the magic of this unique art form. Short stories have all the same elements of a novel–characterization, plot, conflict, arc and setting–with far fewer words. A challenge for any writer, to be sure.

I am so pleased to have a short story accepted for publication in this second anthology by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. The first was Annabelle, in SPRING FEVERS.

If you haven’t read this delightful anthology on relationships, I urge you to do so now. Quite a few of the authors found within the covers of SPRING FEVERS will be sharing another short story with readers of THE FALL.

In fact, Mindy McGinnis, whose short story First Kiss was the anchor story in SPRING FEVERS, has a debut young adult novel (Not a Drop to Drink) coming out in less than a year. Mindy is an amazing writer. Her storylines are unique, and her main characters are stong.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her–even though she’s way younger than me.

But that’s not all. Another writer friend of mine, RC Lewis, holds the anchor spot for THE FALL. Her YA novel was recently picked up by Hyperion. As in Disney Hyperion. As in, “Holy Wow!” Yeah, she’s that good.

Several more authors found within the pages of both anthologies are agented and working toward snagging that publishing contract like RC and Mindy have. In other words, there’s talent between the covers of these anthologies.

And that’s what I like about Matt Sinclair, founder and editor of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. He’s not afraid to cultivate undiscovered talent and showcase it in a gripping, bed-side read. He’s currently working his way through the seasons by putting together a refreshing mix of short stories for lovers of all genres.

Each season has a theme with no limit to the voice of the piece (excluding erotica). The only requirement is outstanding story telling within the scope of the theme for readers of YA and above.

SPRING FEVERS is a book about relationships. But don’t think they’re all sappy love stories. They’re far from it. To get your free e-copy, head over to Amazon or Smashwords. If you’d like a paperback copy, please indulge. I have one on my nightstand and love reading a story or two every now and again.

THE FALL: TALES FROM THE APOCALYPSE (coming October 2012) is much more than zombies and war and the destruction of the Earth. It promises to be an anthology of hope, where relationships change and grow and life perseveres.

So, despite the chill in the air, or maybe because of it, you should switch seasons and cuddle up with a little SPRING FEVERS to warm your nights.

Hugs to all~

 

Another Must-Read Book for Parents

Over the weekend, Dear Daughter and I journeyed to the bookstore. She is starting an anti-bullying program in the elementary schools in our district and wanted to buy a few books on bullying. While scanning the child care aisle with her, I came across a book that screamed for my attention.

HOW TO SAVE YOUR DAUGHTER’S LIFE: Straight Talk For Parents From America’s Top Criminal Profiler.

Yeah, I know right? If you love your daughter, how do you not pick it up and turn to the cover blurb? And once you’ve turned, how do you look your daughter in the eye and put it back on the shelf?

You don’t. And you shouldn’t. I’m dead serious. This book is a wake-up call for parents of girls. Not that the information doesn’t apply to boys, because it does. In fact nearly every scenario described in the book can be played out upon a little boy or young man. A terrifying thought when you consider your only job as a parent is to raise happy, healthy children. And if your child’s physical and emotional well-being is destroyed via assault by another human, you will have neither.

We will have neither.

Our children will suffer when we could have been more in control. Now don’t get me wrong, reading this book will make you raise your eyebrows at some points–who is Pat Brown, America’s top criminal profiler, to tell me what to do?–and want to slink away in embarrassment at others. She does not sugar coat her advice, but neither does she judge. She simply lays it all out on the line.

I work with at-risk children and I had no idea how easy it can be to slide into a life of prostitution. Nor did I understand all the forms prostitution can take. This book is an honest view into the world we subject our children to each day without nary a thought.

I’m not even kidding when I say I couldn’t put this book down. I bought it on Sunday during our family vacation and started reading Sunday night before bed. I finished it on Monday about halfway home from the lake. By dinner time, I’d already talked to my boys about the new rules in the house.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get a mass rebellion from my eleven and eight year olds. I’m banking on this early intervention to teach them the right way to treat others in their lives–namely the girls they like, will want to date and someday hope to marry.

Because not only did I learn how to keep my daughter safe, but I also took away from it how I can help my boys learn to keep your daughters safe.

As parents, we have been entrusted with our children’s lives. It is our responsibility to give them the best advantage we can and to protect them with everything we have. It is also our responsibility to raise upstanding, caring and respectful young men.

Educate yourself. Lead by example and for all that is holy, take care of your children to the very best of your ability.

Please.

The New Death and others Book Review

I received a book I didn’t buy. And no, I didn’t steal it. Though for this little gem, it would be apropos. In fact, it might actually be considered a compliment.

Alas, however, I received a random email request one day from a brave author asking me to review his anthology: The New Death and others.

Now don’t get me wrong, I usually go out of my way to help my fellow scribes in whatever way I can. But this was a book of dark fantasy. I don’t read fantasy and had no feckin’ clue what would happen to regular fantasy with the adjective dark slapped in front of it.

I waffled and even rolled my eyes a bit at his line that this particular anthology had no “sparkly vampires” in it. Then I penned him a response letting him know that my reviews are honest, yet never cruel. If he could handle that, I’d be willing to review his anthology.

Thankfully, James Hutchings responded with enthusiasm and the okay.

Thankfully, I say, because I loved his delectable darkness, and was hooked by the very first story. And so I present to you, The New Death and others.

The New Death and othersDeath gets a roommate…

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological
question…

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain…

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There’s a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it – but from which direction?

Seriously, did you click? I’ll wait while you try again.

I think Mr. Hutchings’ book blurb gives you a peek into the kind of quirky mind he has. But if not, let me elaborate.

Every flash fiction and poetry piece within this anthology will make you think. They force readers to look at life in a very different manner than we traditionally perceive it. The writing is lyrical and quite magical in most places. It captures the imagination and delights the soul, even as the topic is death, humility and more death with sexual undertones.

It is visceral and ethereal. Modern day mythology of sorts. In some ways it reminded me of reading The Odyssey. The language is vivid and the adventures are both delightful and tragic, written as a song. A dark, fantastical song reminiscent of the old television series Tales from the Crypt.

Yet because each piece is so different, I can’t begin to provide an over view of the anthology. I can only provide a word of caution.

Reading this anthology is a bit like walking into a fun house at the fair.

There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of the rooms next door, and the hallways are filled with magical mirrors that distort reality for even the most sane of us. And yet, we feel compelled to seek out every nook and cranny. Some of them will bore you, or simply not impress. Yet the majority of them will send you on your way with a delightful shiver and a chuckle in your heart. With forty-four short stories and nineteen poems, I guarantee at least one piece will strike your fancy.

Kudos, James Hutchings, and thanks so much for letting me read The New Death and others. It was a genuine treat, and provided the opportunity for me to read outside my traditional genre zones!

Have you recently read a gem by an unknown author? If so, what have you done to help promote him/her? How have you supported your favorite authors in this economic crunch? Do you have an eclectic taste in literature or do you typically read within a tight genre range?

Curious minds want to know.

PS: beware of the cats the occasional misplaced comma. Mr.Hutchings’ writing style is unique and the felines plentiful.

Book Reviews Gone Wild: things I won’t listen to and those I will

I just sent Dear Daughter and five of her speech friends to speech camp. They’ll be there for a week, learning how to create and perform speeches in various categories for competition against their peers.

They will be judged.

Hopefully not too harshly, nor too falsely. Because, you see, they can’t get better if they are lied to. Even if it saves a hurt feeling or two, empty feedback provided in a way to only uplift and not to teach will not help them get better. It will not prepare them for the upcoming speech season. It will not help them pinpoint their flaws so they know what to work on.

Sound familiar?

Pull up Amazon or GoodReads. Now, click on a book–any book–and read the reviews. What did you find?  Something sugar-coated with no substance? A scathing review penned by the devil himself? Hurtful words, helpful hints or something in between?

Book reviews serve a purpose: to guide fellow readers in choosing their next beach read.

This type of publicity shouldn’t be directed by anything other than the reviewer’s opinion of the book. It shouldn’t matter if she met the author at a book signing. It shouldn’t matter if the author is the reviewer’s best friend. It shouldn’t matter if the author is Great Aunt Martha and she’s promised the farm in return for a glowing review.

Sadly, however, it seems to. More and more, books are reviewed with the author in mind, not the writing itself, and certainly not future readers. Blog friends return favors by selling word of mouth to reach a broader audience with their own published work. Amazon’s stars are not always given for unbiased purposes. Heck, rumor has it some of the bling is paid for. Or worse yet, it’s the author and his/her band of besties spamming stars on the bulletin board to trick readers into buying.

Gah! What’s a discerning reader to do? How do we pick solid books with content and writing style that interests us? How do we see past the ploys and make sure our money is spent wisely?

Personally, I’m wary of the all five-star books. If a novel has twenty-five reviews and every last one of them is a five, I run. And because of that, I very rarely give out five stars of my own. In fact, I think I’ve reserved that honor for a mere (and literal) handful of books.

I’m wary of the reviews that gush, yet have no substance. “It was amazing.” “Best book I ever read.” And…, why is that? If someone is either gushing or degrading, I want to know why. If they can’t tell me, I avoid the novel like I’d avoid the stink sac on a skunk.

If the review appears cautiously kind, I usually don’t read any further. This is a reviewer trying really hard not to hurt the author’s feelings. It means the book was not good. It didn’t live up to the reader’s expectations, yet he is too nice to say anything hurtful.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “So who/what the heck do you trust in a review?”

Constructive honesty.

Circling back to my speech kids and the critiques I want them to get this week at camp: constructive honesty.

I like hearing what works and what doesn’t. I like kindness with a purpose. I like substance–not a blow-by-blow of the novel (or speech)–but rather a gut reaction on how those words made the reviewer feel. And I like to know what needs improvement if it’s a real issue: grammar, spelling, characterization, etc…

What types of book reviews do you trust? Which ones make you cautious? Do you purchase books based on reviews and/or the star rating? Share your experiences about that great book with bad reviews or the five-star flop you got schnookered into purchasing. What made you choose to go against the ratings?

Curious minds want to know.

Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot: Hot off the press!

Are you a sister, an avid reader or a historical romance fan?  If you can answer yes to any of the choices in the previous question, please don’t hesitate to check out SISTER QUEENS for your next read.

And…I may have fudged the truth a little.  SISTER QUEENS comes out tomorrow (Tuesday 3/6), but if you order today, you’ll have your e-copy delivered before you wake up.  Likewise, a pre-order today can get that dead tree copy to your doorstep nearly 24 hours earlier!

Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

Hot new debut...in more ways than one!

A word about Ms. Perinot.  I met Sophie–aka Litgal–at AgentQuery Connect nearly three years ago.  She’s a pillar in the community and has very generously offered her help to aspiring writers along the way.  She’s dedicated to her craft and one of the hardest working writers I know.

Enjoy~

*now where’s that UPS guy with my copy?!?!?)

Spring Fevers Anthology: It’s Contagious!

I’m so old my first published material was printed on dead tree scrolls under a completely different name.  But, alas, technology has advanced, my byline has changed and trees don’t always make the cut for showcasing the upcoming talent of new writers.

Enter a refreshing digital anthology.

Edited by successful freelance writer, Matt Sinclair, this unique collection of short stories has enough variety to entice readers of all genres and ages.

From the gentle brush of a first kiss to the last poignant farewell, SPRING FEVERS explores relationships–the good, the bad and the very different.

Not to mention, it features some of my favorite writers.

So, before winter gets the best of you, catch your copy of SPRING FEVERS on Smashwords or Amazon.

~Cat (author of Annabelle, SPRING FEVERS, 2012)