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text 2019-01-07 23:12
Unpublished, so why bother? DNF
A Lady in Need - Emily J. Holt

I picked this one out of the Kindle inventory -- now just over 5800 titles -- and started it Sunday afternoon when the gloom and grey and cold and rain made me a lady in need of entertainment.


Oh, ugh, the first couple of pages were terrible, dull, unfocused, telling-not-showing.


I blamed my disappointment on other factors -- I no longer trust my own opinion -- and decided I'd better check out other reviews to see what everyone else was saying.


That's how I found out this book no longer exists.  It's been pulled from Amazon.


It has a few reviews on Goodreads, and although some are the usual glowing, gushing raves, some of the others point to the same issues I saw within just a few pages.


There's no reason for me to continue with a book I'm not enjoying.  Maybe the author is rethinking the quality of her book, but at this point I don't care.

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text 2019-01-05 04:17
I don't review genres I know nothing about.

I don't read genre horror.  I kinda don't like it.  Blood and gore and that stuff is just icky to me.  Disney's Snow White scared the crap out of me when I was about four years old and I've never stopped being creeped out by horror movies and books.


When Halloween Bingo rolls around, I try to read a little bit of sort-of horror, but I don't enjoy it.


I have never read any of Stephen King's fiction.  None.  I tried The Stand, but I didn't get it and quit after about 10 pages.  I tried one other book, title forgotten, but it creeped me out within four or five pages, so that was the end of that.


I don't review horror fiction.  I don't read it, I don't have any idea what's good horror and what's bad horror, and I have no standards against which to measure anything I'd read.


Hard science fiction isn't my thing either.  It doesn't scare me or give me negative feelings; it just doesn't interest me.  So I read almost no hard science fiction and therefore I don't review it.


My go-to genres are historical romance, gothic romance, and romantic suspense; epic fantasy; and mystery.  Once in a while I'll pick up a thriller or a straight historical novel, so I have a little bit of background there.  These therefore are the genres I'll rate and review and pick apart microscopically.  They're the only ones I feel confident I can determine good writing from bad writing, thus good books from bad books.


I don't and won't negatively review books just because they're in genres I don't enjoy reading.


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text 2019-01-02 20:56
Rules for Reviewing: #1 - There are no rules

:::::huge sigh of frustration:::::


Some of us have been around this circus long enough to remember when there was an entire website devoted to telling reviewers that they were wrong for writing negative reviews, that reviewers were supposed to support authors, that reviewers who were also authors were obligated to support and help other authors, that reviewers who were also indie/self-publishing authors were evil bastards if they didn't automatically promote other indie/self-publishing authors AND offer them free editing services.


Apparently Amazon made the decision sometime in 2018 or maybe even before that, that in order to leave a product review (including book reviews), a customer must have purchased $50 worth of goods from Amazon in the calendar year and continue to buy at least $50 worth of goods in each subsequent year.  One presumes that this is an effort to curb the ongoing tsunami of fake reviews from fiverr accounts and other sources. 


Some reviewers and/or authors are upset about this.  One presumes that most of those upset are either authors (or other vendors) who were using fake reviews to boost their sales, or they were providers of fake reviews who were getting paid for them.


Please remember that the onslaught of fake reviews from fiverr and independent reviewers had been going on at least since 2013 and it had been brought to the attention of Amazon and its co-conspirator Goodreads with mountains of documentary evidence.


Please also remember that yours truly was responsible for the removal of over 6,000 fake reviews from Goodreads and it was only a drop in the bucket.  Almost all of those reviews were five-star recommendations.  A healthy portion of them had been purchased from fiverr.  Some of the fiverr shills returned again and again and again under different Amazon and Goodreads accounts, leaving fake five-star reviews to boost the sales of otherwise underperforming, shall we say, books and their authors.


These are fake reviews because they are not based on an honest, unbiased reading of the book.  They are purchased commercials, minus the disclaimer that the reviewer has been paid to deliver a glowing recommendation whether or not he/she has read a single word of the text. 


Setting aside all of the fake, purchased, commercial postings that masquerade as reviews, what constitutes a real review?


Because Amazon is a commercial site -- they're directly selling products -- they are bound by certain regulations of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. So . . .


1.  You can't review your own product, not even under another name/account.

2.  You can't have a friend or family member review your product.

3.  You can't negatively review a product with which your own product is in direct competition.

4.  You can't take any compensation for a review.


Amazon makes all of this very clear in their guidelines.  If they think you might have violated those guidelines, they can remove your reviews and even remove your account.  It is their site; removing your reviews is not government censorship.


So let's suppose that you are an average consumer who has met Amazon's requirement to have spent $50 on the site.  You've read a book and now want to review it.  What are the rules and regulations for doing that?


There are none.


You don't have to read the whole book.  If you loved or hated the first two pages, you can write and post a review based on that.  You can even write a review based on your anticipation of reading -- or not reading -- the book.


You don't have to be helpful, to either the author or to other readers.  You don't have to analyze why you liked or didn't like the book.  You can say it was filled with errors and not list any of them. You can say it had the most sound scientific foundation of any book ever published even though you know nothing about science.  You can claim it is historically inaccurate even if you know nothing about history. 


Now, if you want to establish a reputation as a trusted reviewer, one who has a large following of dedicated readers who can't wait for your next recommendation, one who receives hundreds or even thousands of free books each year because authors and publishers value your opinion, then you probably want to learn about the science behind science fiction or the history behind historical fiction.  You might want to refresh your knowledge of grammar and usage and punctuation.  You don't have to know everything there is to know or read everything there is to read, but getting a solid background in the literary genre of your choice is still a good idea.


Back in the day when I was reviewing for Rave Reviews magazine, I got stuck with a lot of horror and hard science fiction novels.  This was manifestly unfair to the authors and the readers, because I knew almost nothing about either genre.  I couldn't tell if a book was a good example of its type or not.  (I didn't get to review romance because that entire genre was handled by the parent magazine, Romantic Times, and they had their stable of professional reviewers.)  But I could at least describe the plot and express an opinion on whether I liked the characters or the writing.


When an Amazon or Goodreads or BookLikes or blog-based reviewer takes on the task of reviewing any given book, the only rule is honesty -- and it's one many reviewers break without consequences.  I understand this, and I've said so often enough before.  If the reviewer decides she wants to maintain the flow of free books by giving everything a four- or five-star review, that's her choice.  Is it honest?  Probably not, but she'll never admit it.  She'll say she just doesn't review books she doesn't like, or she only reviews books she finishes and she doesn't waste time on books she doesn't like.  Or she may simply state that she's never read a really bad book.


Readers who trust these rave reviewers are free to do so.  Maybe they don't care what the reviewer's real standards are.  Maybe they don't want to risk going beyond the reviewer's recommendations.  They're free to do so.


There's no rule that they have to post negative reviews.


But there's also no rule that a reviewer can't or shouldn't post a negative review.  Nor are there rules governing how a reviewer writes a negative review.


A reviewer doesn't have to justify her dislike of a given book.  She can if she wants to, but she doesn't have any obligation to.  Again, if she wants to establish a large and dedicated following, the better her reviews help her readers make up their own minds about a book, the more likely she is to gain followers. 


I'm a notoriously unlikable reviewer.  I incurred the wrath of That Website because I didn't let up on authors who published what I thought were poorly written books.  My reviews were often very detailed analyses of bad writing, bad research, lack of originality, poor formatting, and so on.  Some readers criticized me for spending so much time on a negative review.  Why go to all that trouble for a book I didn't like?  Because I wanted to.


Because most of the books I reviewed like that were free on Amazon, and I felt free or not, they should have been better written.  Even poor people like me deserve well-written books. 


But I also know -- and I've said this before, too -- that there are too many writers out there who never get critical feedback on their work.  Everyone tells them how great their book is, but "everyone" consists of Aunt Jane and Neighbor Brenda, and the writer never hears from someone who knows how stories are supposed to be constructed and how punctuation works. 


Sadly, there are people out there who call this "gatekeeping," as if there should be no standards.  They become angry and defensive, and yes, they have the right to do so.  There are no rules against it.  Neither are there rules against gatekeeping.


As a reviewer, I'm not going to like every sexually promiscuous heroine.  I'm not going to like every medieval setting.  I'm not going to like every beta hero.  I reserve the right to judge each book on its own merits.


I also reserve the right to challenge people who try to tell me how reviewers should review.  If you want to review that way, then go right ahead.  But please, don't tell me I can't review my own way, too.



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text 2019-01-01 22:34
The hating on reviewers starts out 2019 right where 2018 left off



I am trying to contain myself and be nice, but it's getting more and more difficult.

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review 2018-12-08 04:20
Reading progress update: I've read 7%. And I can't read any more
Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Victorian Historical Romance - Tammy Andresen

(Prior reports linked at the end.)


I really tried.  I kept telling myself there would be a story, a romance, that I could read and review.  Somehow I would be able to set aside the problems and read the book.  But it's not going to happen.


Piper and her mother are set upon by thieves/kidnappers, but they are rescued by our caped hero, who turns out to be the Barrett Maddox, 6th Duke of Manchester.  What he's doing in Boston we don't know yet.


He rescues Piper, almost kisses her, then discovers she is with her mother.  He suggests/invites them to join him sailing to New York.


Here's where things about the writing just got really, really bad.


First, we don't know what an English Duke is doing in Boston.  Dukes have responsibilities that they can't just up and leave for extended periods of time.


Second, we learn that Piper's mother used to be "Lady Carolyn Vesser," but not how that title applied to her.  Is she an earl's daughter?  Why would she have left England and married an American in the 1830s?


Third, the original implication is that the duke is sailing on the same ship, the Maria, as Piper and her mother.  When Piper asks him where he is taking them,


“To the Maria.” He paused as his eyes drank her in again. “Although it’s an awful ship. I am travelling to New York as well, and you could both travel with me. You would, most assuredly, be safer.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.


A few pages later, however, we learn that he has led them -- distance not described -- to his own "boat."


“Lady Vesser, why don’t I send a note to the Maria that you will be travelling with us tonight? My boat is right here and I am sure you will be more comfortable.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 10). Kindle Edition.


Fourth, there are a couple references to Piper's cleavage.  She tries to cover it and Maddox's eyes travel to it.  I'm just not comfortable thinking that a well-bred young woman traveling from Boston to New York in 1854 would be wearing something that bares her bosom.  Even though it's May, the weather in the evening might be cool, and it almost certainly will be once they're at sea, so shouldn't she have some kind of cloak or cape or other covering?


Fifth, there is the matter of their luggage.  These two women are essentially moving to New York, so they have trunks.  TRUNKS.  Only one apiece?  Or more?  Oh, who knows?  The author isn't specific, and she just has the driver of the carriage pick up both trunks and carry them to the bottom of the gangplank to Maddox's "boat." 


Sixth, we get this nonsense about peerage titles, something that drives me up the ever-loving wall.


Piper and her mother are going to New York to visit (or live with?) Piper's cousin Sybil, who has already been referred to as "Lady Fairfield."


But now, in the company of the duke, Mrs. Baker says:


". . . Piper, I was girlhood friends with Mr. Maddox’s mother, Lady Priscilla Fairfield Maddox. Now the Duchess, of course."

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (pp. 11-12). Kindle Edition.


I thought I had misread something, but later on that same page, Piper replies to a question about having family in England:


“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Actually my cousin, Lady Sybil Fairfield, Viscountess of Abberforth, is waiting for us in New York.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 12). Kindle Edition.


The same family name????  And a viscount is never "of" something.  Viscount Abberforth would be the correct form.


Okay, that's bad enough.  But how is Sybil a viscountess?  She's already been described as being in desperate need of a husband, so we know she's not married to the viscount.  If she's the daughter of the viscount Abberforth, we know he's dead because that's already been established, too.


Her cousin, Sybil, also needed to marry but had yet to choose a suitor. A sigh escaped her lips to think of her cousin. Beautiful and titled, she supposed most women would be jealous of Sybil, but Piper knew the truth. After the death of her parents, Sybil felt weighed down with responsibility. She was having difficulty running the estate.

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 2). Kindle Edition.


If her father the viscount died without a male heir, the title would have gone to another male such as a nephew.  In the absence of a direct male heir, the title would have gone in abeyance or reverted to the crown.  The idea of Sybil, a young woman in America, being given a title in her own right is utterly implausible. 


And what is this business of running an estate?  In New York?  Rural New York, perhaps, but the implication is New York City, since Piper is counting on Sybil's ability to introduce her to New York society.


Furthermore, while Mrs. Baker may have given up her own title when she married an American, she would not not NOT have referred to His Grace the Duke of Manchester as "Mr. Maddox." Never, never, never.  If there is an explanation for this, it needs to come at the spot the event happens, not more pages into the book.


Once again, the point is to make the pages disappear so the reader is lost in the story, not wondering why there are all these unexplained anomalies.


Eighth -- the overall effect.


The pacing is completely off.  The opening scene does nothing to set the plot in motion; all it really does is raise questions.  When Piper and her mother go to the docks to board their ship, there's still not enough explanation.  And there's no description at all!  I don't know what Piper looks like.  I don't know what kind of night it is.  Warm?  Breezy?  How does the air smell in the harbor area?  We get some of Piper's reactions to being touched by the duke, but it's kind of silly description.  Her heart is pounding.  Something happens to her nerves.  It's beyond clichéd.


This is one of those books that might have a decent romance plot buried in the garbage, but it desperately needs competent editing.  It needs to be fleshed out with good description, reasonable background development, and for the love of Queen Victoria, some historical research!


DNF, because I refuse to waste any more time on this piece of crap.












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