Recently I read through a bunch of novels to judge for the RITA contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Out of the 7 books sent me, I truly liked only one. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt to be fair and to objectively evaluate the others according to the supplied criteria. But only one out of the seven books appealed to my taste as a reader.
This exercise made me realize what I like about my favorite genres, and also what factors I don’t like that will make me put aside a book.
No plot: In many of these romances, the romance portion was beautifully done but not much else happened. Reading page after page of angst and relationship problems quickly lost my interest. Now keep in mind that my cup of tea may be your cup of coffee. You may be an avid fan of contemporary romance and love these types of stories. I am not.
I like adventure, danger, and intrigue along with my romance. Or at the very least, I like something to be happening other than the emotional rollercoaster of the main couple. My taste runs to historicals, scifi/fantasy, and paranormals. That’s why romance can delight everyone. Different subgenres broaden the appeal.
Of course, the opposite problem can also be a deterrent: too much plot and not enough emotion. Haven’t you read stories where you don’t get a feel for the people? The action keeps moving along but you want more reaction? Balance is the key.
Graphic Language: Erotica may be a hot selling genre, but I don’t get off on the f-word or other graphically depicted details. You don’t even need a plot when these people are in bed for most of story. Or they’re thinking of doing it. Where’s the falling in love when two people are hot to trot right from the start? I’d be happier with a Jane Austen novel.
Contemporary Settings: I like to escape reality when I read, hence I prefer historical romance or futuristic/scifi/fantasy settings, or a contemporary setting with a paranormal element. My reading pleasure is focused on escape and entertainment, not enlightenment on heavy issues or a rehash of societal woes. All stories reflect on society in some manner. I prefer my tales Star Trek style, i.e. in disguised parallels to humanity’s foibles. As for location, Texas doesn’t draw me in although it seems to be a favorite among readers.
Unlikeable Characters: If the people are too far out from what’s normal for me, too eclectic or weird or damaged or tortured, I am apt to not be engaged. I want people I can admire and aspire to be like, not whom are unpleasant so that I can’t wait for the story to end.
So if these were the main things I disliked, what do I look for in a story? You may ask yourself the same thing. What draws you to a certain type of writing? A certain genre or a time period?
Out of Time/Place/Experience: As I said above, I like to escape the toils of daily living, and so historical settings or futuristic/fantasy stories appeal to me. Ditto these elements or a paranormal angle in a modern setting.
Humor: I’m a sucker for humor. In any kind of story, if you make me smile, I’m more likely to keep reading.
Strong Plot: I want something to matter other than the relationship. Let the main couple race to find an artifact, missing sister, stolen chalice, spear of Atlantis, or anything that adds suspense. Throw them into situations that make me turn the page.
Archetypes: While I’m not fond of reunion stories, I do like hidden identity, royalty, rags to riches, and certain other archetypes. Some of these turn me off, like cowboys. What about you?
Mystery: A smidgen of mystery, even about a character’s background, adds tension. If you know everything up front and the characters like each other right away, where’s the story going?
Now that I’ve finished the books I had to read, I can’t wait to dive into my TBR pile. Adventure, romance, fantasy, mystery, scifi—here I come.
So what kind of stories do you gravitate toward and which types do you generally avoid? How much will you read before you put a book down?
Florida Romance Writers was lucky to have Columnist Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly speak to us about What Readers Want. Basically, they want authors to be polite and respectful toward them. They want their expectations to be met. And they want to know if you’ve reissued a book they might already have.
Readers may be disappointed if an author breaks her promise to readers. For example, the reader expects a certain type of reading experience, and the author takes a favorite series in another direction. This might sour the reader toward buying any more books in this series.
Readers may not like it when an author switches genres and the reader is expecting the same type of book as before. Either use a pseudonym or indicate by the cover that this is a different genre.
Readers aren’t happy when they buy a book only to find they already have it on their shelves, because it’s a reissue. Have it say so somewhere on the cover or inside the front pages.
Readers blame the author for anything and everything: bad covers, bad editing, etc. They don’t understand that publishers may be at fault. All they know are authors.
Readers hold authors in high regard and expect courtesy and respect in return.
Avoid politics online (and religion) or you’ll risk alienating your fans.
Readers who post reviews shouldn’t give away significant plot points.
To gain reader interest, Barbara advises authors to interact online with readers, put out questions, chat as though with a friend, and be yourself.
Readers, what would you add?
I was pleased to receive Member of the Month award from FRW. Here’s a photo of me with FRW president Rose Lawson, and another one of FRW Board members Heidi Lynn Anderson, Rose Lawson, and Lisa Manuel with lifetime achievement award winners Linda Conrad, Heather Graham, and Joan Hammond.
We went to lunch afterward at the Field, an Irish pub. Here I am with Barbara Vey. And that’s the rest of the gang!
When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?
Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.
So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”
Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.
Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.
Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.
Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen
Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/home/NancyJCohen. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.
Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.
Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.
Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?
So many good books to read, not enough time! Especially now with all the titles loaded onto my Kindle plus the books overflowing our shelves at home, I wish I had more time to lie on the couch and read. Still, I’ve managed to get through the below titles in the past few months. I’m sharing them with you in case you’re in a quandary as to what to read next—besides those listed in the sidebar to your right. There’s nothing like a good book to transport you to a magic place, whether past, present or future, and immerse your mind in another world.
DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL by Joanna Campbell Slan (Historical Mystery)
This debut title in The Jane Eyre Chronicles will charm you into wanting to read more. Jane is now married to Mr. Rochester. She enjoys an elevated status in society and has given birth to a son. However, she leaves the comfort of home when a mysterious message arrives from her husband’s ward, young Adele Varens. The frightening missive indicates the girl’s life may be in danger. Jane travels to the child’s school where she is mistaken for a new teacher. With the help of an old friend who recognizes her, she goes undercover to catch a killer. Someone has murdered Selina Biltmore, one of the superintendent’s favorites. As Jane gets to know Selina’s classmates along with the house staff, she notes a wealth of suspects. The victim may have appeared a cherub, but she hid a dark side. Jane has to catch the killer fast if she wants to save Adele from harm and prevent an innocent teacher from getting the blame.
Death of a Schoolgirl will immerse you in Jane’s world, and you’ll be sorry to see the story end. I’m eager for the next installment in this delightful series.
THE FIRST CONFESSOR by Terry Goodkind (Fantasy)
This prequel to Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series features Magda Searus, widow of First Wizard Barracus. Magda senses something isn’t right about her husband’s death. Her investigation leads her to a dark conspiracy, a threat to the Wizard’s Keep and to the very fabric of life itself. The undead play a role in this captivating tale. I enjoyed reading how Magda became the first Confessor and how the Sword of Truth was created. It’s a true origin story and Goodkind’s initial venture into digital first publishing. I love his writing and can’t wait for the next installment in his fantasy world, whether it’s another prequel or a sequel. His exquisite attention to detail and to character depth and the fast-paced action will pull you into the story, and you won’t want it to end.
104 PUZZLE QUIZZES HD by the Grabarchuk Family
If you’re looking for a diversion when waiting in a doctor’s office or on a trip, download this puzzle book into your eReader device. Dozens of puzzles await your pleasure: mathematical, geometry, words, spatial, logic, and more. It’s a fun challenge to see if you can solve these brain teasers. You can download the book onto your Kindle or iPad. It’s very easy to operate with an iPad. You touch the responses to see if you have the correct answer. Navigation is a breeze on this device and do-able on the Kindle as well.
It’s a great book to have available when you want a quick puzzle fix or need to kill time. If you like brain challenges, add this book to your collection.
SUNRISE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN by Suzanne Frank (Historical Novel)
Time Travelers Chloe and Cheftu end up in the Biblical era of King David and the birth of Jerusalem. Mistaken for a mermaid goddess then captured as a slave, Chloe eventually ends up as a trusted advisor in King David’s court along with her husband Cheftu, appointed court scribe.
Old enemies aren’t far behind, and our heroes must prevent a plan that would destroy the holy city. And when they succeed, they’ll face a choice. Chloe can’t return to her own time, so will they stay in this era or move on?
WHY MERMAIDS SING by C.S. Harris(Historical Mystery)
Lord Devlin once again gets embroiled in a series of tragic murders. This time young men—the sons of prominent noblemen—are found dead and their bodies mutilated. Clues point to a sea voyage their parents had in common. What happened on that ship that is driving someone to make a statement in such a gruesome fashion? As Lord Devlin rushes to find the killer, he arouses someone’s interest and soon becomes a target himself. The secret of that voyage is one that people will kill to keep, even if it means sacrificing their own children. Can Lord Devlin save himself and track the murderer before more young people die? And can he hang onto the love of his life, actress Kat Boleyn, who gets herself immersed deeper into intrigue and her own danger? This captivating mystery will have you reaching for the sequel.
A NECESSARY HUSBAND by Debra Mullins(Historical Romance)
Lucinda Devering’s future rides on the success of her protégée, young Meg Lynch. The Duke of Raynewood has hired Lucinda to train his American granddaughter to fit in with the nobility and position due her as a lady. However, Meg’s sea captain brother shows up with other plans. He wants to take Meg home to Boston but delays their voyage at his sister’s pleas. In the meantime, the Duke instructs Lucinda to tame this ruffian who is his only heir. Can Lucinda accomplish this difficult task when Garrett Lynch makes her heart beat faster and her hidden desires flare into life? Garrett finds himself drawn to his sister’s mentor against his will. He doesn’t want to like this life in England or take his role as Lord Kelton. But the longer he stays, the deeper the danger that Lucinda will tempt him to remain.
HEART FATE by Robin D. Owens(Fantasy Romance)
Lahsin Yew escapes from an abusive husband into a hidden sanctuary where she seeks peace and her Second Passage to acquire the magic known as Flair. But she’s not the only resident in BalmHeal. Tinne Holly is there, too, allowed inside only because he’s anguished over his divorce. Both emotionally wounded by broken relationships, they are drawn together by their unacknowledged Heart bond. Will they be able to reconcile their pasts in order to move ahead into the future? With Lahsin wary of men, Tinne has to approach her carefully even as his heart yearns for her. Forbidden by law to mention their connection, he can only hope that time will heal them both so they can be together. But when Lahsin learns the truth, will she turn away from him? Excellent world building and likeable characters will pull you into this imaginative tale.
ARK ANGEL by Anthony Horowitz(Teen Spy Fiction)
Teen spy Alex Rider is recovering from a gunshot wound in a private hospital when thugs burst in meaning to kidnap the boy in the next room. Wanting to protect the son of wealthy Nikolai Drevin, Alex takes his place. The bad guys, who don’t know one kid from another, forcibly take Alex to a deserted warehouse. There they await a response to their ransom demands. But Alex isn’t one to sit idly by, especially when the thugs threaten to cut off one of his fingers and send it to Drevin as proof they have his son. To forestall the horrendous act, Alex reveals his true identity and learns that the gang belongs to the terrorist group, Force Three. He manages a harrowing escape after the terrorists lock him up and set fire to the deserted building.
In gratitude to Alex for saving his son from a traumatic ordeal, Drevin invites Alex for a holiday on a private island in the Caribbean. Drevin’s space station is set to become the first hotel in space. But is that all Drevin plans? Engaged by both MI6 and the CIA, Alex attempts to discover Drevin’s secrets while pretending to be his son’s friend and an honored guest. His visit quickly turns dangerous as the Force Three gang shows up and Alex becomes the hunted instead of the hunter.
Another rousing episode in the Alex Rider series, this story is just as fast-paced and exciting as the rest. It’s pure escapism at heart.
WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)
Viscount Devlin is once again tapped to use his unique sleuthing abilities to discover who has murdered the Marchioness of Anglessey. Is it the Prince Regent, who is caught with her body nearly in her arms? Or is it one of the prince’s political enemies who seeks to discredit him and put another claimant on the throne? Or is it the lady’s husband, jealous because she took a younger lover? Or maybe it’s the lover, whom she cast aside?
Lots of suspects abound in this intriguing mystery set in 1800’s London. Amid a deepening conspiracy, Devlin seeks justice and determines to find the killer. The stakes rise as traitors in high places attempt to silence him. Detailed settings and a dashing hero will have you seeking the next book in this engaging series.
SHIP OF DREAMS by Brenda Hiatt (Historical Romance)
Della, a medicinal herbalist, escapes from a possible murder charge in San Francisco onto a cruise liner headed to Panama and eventually the States. Needing a quick disguise, she proclaims a stranger onboard to be her husband. For reasons of his own, he plays along until the ship sails and he gets her alone in his cabin. When she reveals her ruse, he explains that he needs a wife for business purposes. They agree to an arrangement but their fake marriage soon changes into deep affection. Their marriage becomes real when the ship’s captain performs a secret ceremony.
Unfortunately, their wedded bliss is cut short when the ship founders in a storm and sinks. The two are separated, and she believes her husband to be dead. She makes her way to the eastern U.S. to meet his family, where she is not very welcome. She’s about to run away when her husband turns up, alive and well. Will their troubled start allow them to settle down, or are they each better off on their own? This heartwarming romance, along with vivid scenes of a shipwreck based on true stories, will keep you turning pages.
If you’re an avid reader, no doubt you’d like to encourage your favorite authors to keep writing. What can you, as a consumer, do for the writer who bares her soul to you in each story? Beyond buying her latest title, is there more?
You betcha! Here are some things you can do on your end that will be appreciated.
Write customer reviews of author’s books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing.
Add author’s book to your Wish List on Amazon.
Search for author’s website, author name, and book titles periodically to raise their rank in search engines.
Bookmark or add to Favorites the author’s online sites.
Like author’s Facebook page; Share and comment on her Facebook posts.
Retweet author’s Twitter updates; Mention author and her books on Twitter.
Like and Tag author’s Amazon author page as well as each book title and edition.
Share author’s newsletter with your friends.
Recommend author’s books online on various reader forums.
Create a Listmania list on Amazon and add author’s books.
Look for good reviews of author’s book and click Yes to “Was this review helpful to you?”
Follow author’s blog tours and leave comments.
Repin author’s photos on Pinterest. Go to online bookseller and Pin author’s book covers into one of your albums.
Offer to hand out bookmarks for author.
Initiate a Street Team of fans to spread the word about author’s works.
If you live in the same region, suggest the author as a speaker to various groups.
Buy the author’s latest book or ask your librarian to order it and put your name on the wait list.
Anything you can do will help, especially in this era of viral content. Word of mouth still has the most clout. So share your pleasure in the author’s writing and make her job easier so she can concentrate on writing the next book.
I haven’t posted any book reviews lately, although you can follow me on Goodreads to catch my reports. But people often ask writers what we like to read. So here are the books I finished in June.
THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass (Teen Fiction) Thirty five girls are chosen to compete for the hand in marriage of handsome Prince Maxon in the land known as Illéa. America Singer, a musician and member of a lower caste, enters her name in the lottery after her crush Aspen casts her off. She doesn’t expect to get chosen and is surprised when her name is announced. Soon she journeys to the palace to meet the prince and appear in broadcasts with the other contestants. As she gets to know Maxon, her feelings for him blossom, but the Selection is marred by increasingly violent rebel attacks. What do the rebels want? Why does the king suppress the region’s history? And what’s America to do when Aspen joins the draft and shows up as a palace guard?
The world-building works in this novel that’s part fantasy and partly a take-off on reality shows. I believe it’s billed as the Hunger Games meets the Bachelor. Certainly, the gorgeous cover draws you in. As a reader, you quickly become invested in America’s happiness and wonder how she might help the country if she ends up as Maxon’s bride. But his choice isn’t made by the last page. You have to tune in to the sequel to continue the story and might find this tactic somewhat frustrating.
Accustomed to reading romance novels, I would have liked a conclusive ending. It disturbs me that I might have to read two more books to reach a finale, but I like the story enough that it might be worth the wait. I know how I would like this tale to end. I just wish it wouldn’t take three books to cross that finish line. Find on Amazon
TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Connie Willis (Time Travel Historical) The Connie Willis books I’ve read have been complex stories that take place in dark times of global history. To the contrary, this title is more like a Shakespearean comedy of manners. It’s a twisted tale, hard to follow at first, seeming to wander aimlessly with silly incidents, until the story finally becomes more focused at least halfway through. Then my interest peaked but not so much in the beginning. Certainly I didn’t find it hilarious, more like amusing, and a cheerful diversion from Willis’s usual works. As always, her depiction of the era is vastly detailed and immersive. If you were to start with one of her books, though, I wouldn’t choose this one. I think you need to be a fan to appreciate its absurdities, although some readers love this book the best. My favorites are Doomsday, Black Out, and All Clear. Find on Amazon
UTTERLY DEVOTED by Regina Scott (Regency Romance) This pleasant Regency romance is a staple in the genre but the plot is a bit contrived. Left in the lurch by the rake Jareth Darby after he loved her and left her, Eloise denies his attraction when they meet again several years later. He is determined to reform himself and begs her forgiveness. To earn her regard, he promises to pass three tests, but neither of them count on falling in love. Can Eloise get over the past in order to accept her future? Find on Amazon
THE PRINCESS AND THE PEER by Tracy Anne Warren (Historical Romance) When Princess Emmaline of Rosewald is told that she must marry for the political future of her country, she runs away to London for a last fling before bowing to duty. But she doesn’t anticipate the confusion and chaos that greets her in the big city, nor does she know what to do after her reticule is stolen. Adrift in strange territory, she accepts the offer of a stranger who comes to her assistance.
Nick Gregory, the Earl of Lyndhurst after his elder brother’s death, is still adjusting to his new title when he encounters the lovely wench in the street. Assuming her to be an unemployed governess by her refined manner, he offers shelter until she can contact her family. But as he gets to know Emma, his need for her grows. Emma reciprocates his affection, but she’s aware that their relationship must end. Duty calls, and she will not forsake her country. What she doesn’t anticipate is that Nick isn’t willing to give her up and will pursue her until she becomes his wife. Find on Amazon
ANGEL’S ADVOCATE by Mary Stanton (Mystery) In this Beaufort & Company Mystery, attorney Brianna Winston-Beaufort accepts the case of a young woman accused of ripping off a Girl Scout selling cookies. But the girl’s troubles are minor compared to those of her recently deceased father, whose condemned soul pleads for Brianna’s assistance in celestial court. Was he murdered like he hinted, or did he die in a car crash as everyone believes? Did he become aware of shady goings-on among his associates, or was he a part of them? And how does poor Lindsey fit in? With one case in the temporal world and another in the realm of angels, how will Brie learn the truth? With the supernatural help of her friends and a couple of guardian dogs, she sets on the path to justice. Angel’s Advocate is a twisted tale of paranormal mystery with a dollop of Southern charm. Find on Amazon
I am addicted to books. I’ll confess right now that I can’t go anywhere without a book. The format doesn’t matter. Kindle, iPad, or tree-based physical books will all serve the purpose. You’ll find books in my car, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and the den. Sometimes I’ll read three at once, usually in different genres. But as my Amazon wish list grows longer, so do the piles of books in our house. We have crates of them spilling over into every room.
Some books I’ve gathered at conferences, others in goodie bags at various book events. Some authors have sent me their work for endorsements. And of course I have to buy the books my friends write. Then there are my favorite authors and new writers to try. So many good books to read, not enough time!
You say I can save space if I give up the physical tomes and settle for digital? The futurist in me fears an electromagnetic surge/weapon/solar flare that will knock out our electronics. Where would I be then without a paper book to hold?
No matter what format books take in the future, I can’t live without them. I need a story to transport me to other places and other times, to experience adventures I’ll never have in my lifetime, and to learn about different ways of life and people. Storytelling lies at the root of the human experience. Even if the delivery methods change, the need for this form of expression will not go away. So join me, and read a book today!
I awoke to the news there had been a home invasion robbery and murder in my town. Although we’re a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale, our city doesn’t experience violent crime all that often. So when it does occur, it’s scary. What’s even more scary is that I just got a call from a mystery writer friend of mine, and it happened right across the street from her. I hadn’t even connected the addresses. She can see the CSI folks out her front window.
This incident brings home the fact that a random act of violence can happen to anyone. All we need is somebody to follow us home because we drive a nice car, or a nutcase to obsess on us, or else we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often these cases end badly. No wonder we want to read crime novels where the villain is caught and justice is served. I’d say this is Reason #1 why we read this genre. Stories may reflect on social ills and grapple with weighty issues, but they still reach a satisfactory conclusion, unlike real life.
An HEA ending (i.e. Happy Ever After) makes us less afraid. These stories force us to confront our fears, especially in psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. In my case, I prefer to read lighter fare, humorous mysteries where no one likes the victim and the amateur sleuth catches the crook. I accept that these are fantasies, because in reality, murder is a somber and sad business. Survivors mourn the dead. The killer may never be caught. So what do you say? Do you get your thrills from gritty crime fiction, true crime, or stories rife with forensic details? Or would you rather confine reality to the news and read a book with an HEA that leaves you with a smile?