Book Reviews: Who Needs Them? Authors Do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriters start out as book lovers, long before we pick up a pencil or write a sentence. Readers find value in books. Writers find value in sharing our thoughts and ideas. Reading and writing complete each other. We can’t do one without the other. Writers have no profitable value without readers. Readers have no fun value without writers (okay maybe that’s just me!)

It’s personal to open a book and give it our quality time, interest, and attention. Plus, the money spent on the book increases its worth. Readers understand this evaluation of a book.

Book Reviewers

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Book reviewers have an increased value when they add that extra step. Serious reviewers will take notes on the book, follow the POV, pay attention to details, and then write a thorough review about their experience.

Books are worth a lot to a reader, especially book reviewers.

Positive Reviews

It’s no wonder readers are zealous about their books. For the stories that inspire passion, the book reviewers are a writer’s best customer. Many reviews written are over-the-moon, enthusiastic, engaging, flashy, and emotional pieces of praise every author dreams of receiving.

A potential buyer who sees these reviews will want that same experience and will purchase the book. If they feel the same way about the book, they’ll add their own positive reviews and spread the word. This is an important way to make a book successful, and one enthusiastic review by a popular reviewer can spur a book to higher heights.

Negative Reviews

What writers may not realize is that those same reviewers, so loved for their positive reviews are also known for their undesirable reviews. If they believe a book has wasted their precious quality time, money, and effort they will write as much passion into their negative pieces as they do their positive ones. They don’t spare anyone’s feelings, but write from their heart.

Authors fear these reviews more than any other step in the process. Some writers won’t even release their books if they anticipate negative feedback. If any book struggles to launch big, and then receives a 1-star, did not finish, hate-this-book review from a popular reviewer, it may hurt book sales, but not always.

negative reciew

There is hope though. Many reviewers won’t write-off an author just because of one negative experience with a book. They know that even the authors they adore will write one or two books they won’t like. They may not like one, but it’s possible to love another. It’s not career ending.

Authors Respond

Unfortunately, this is where some authors make the mistake of challenging the book reviewers. The book enthusiasts take their reviews as seriously as authors take their books. It’s personal to be corrected, lectured, and disrespected by an author for a review. The reviewer is the customer of a product and they don’t get paid for their efforts. They write reviews because of their love for books and they don’t expect confrontation from an author.

Most reviews give helpful critiques, good or bad, that readers can use as a tool to decide to buy a book. It’s also clear when a review focuses on personal attacks and unfair assessments. Readers ignore overly cruel reviews, or at least disregarded them as irrelevant. The author intervention is unnecessary. Trust your customers.

Authors are like small business owners, many of which go out of business if they offer a product no one wants and they refuse to adapt and produce a product people do want. It isn’t the customer’s fault for not liking the product. It’s the nature of business. An entrepreneur puts themselves out there and the customer decides their business fate, the owner needs to adjust. Blaming the customer only ensures any future attempt is tainted by the customer’s bad experience with the owner.

Things to remember about book reviewers:

  • Books are more valuable than the money spent
  • Their reviews come from their heart and passion
  • It takes a lot of effort to write a review
  • Writing a review is serious
  • They won’t always give up on an author for a negative experience
  • Every reader is a customer
  • Customer experience is important for future purchases
  • Expectations for liking a book are high
  • They love books and want to voice their opinions

Authors who don’t respect reviewers will have a hard time selling their books. Every positive and negative response is an opportunity to grow and develop as writers.

What do you think about book reviewers who write harsh and negative criticism? Should they be stopped or given opportunity to voice their opinions?

I would love to discuss with you about this and I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog.
A.G. Zalens

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20 Books to Love

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I often wonder about those who don’t like to read. I carry reading material with me at all times. Every second to spare is a perfect time to read. So what do they do besides reading? It’s a mystery to me.

Many times non-readers will ask me why I read so much and the question seems as absurd as a person not liking to read. I’m not sure how to answer. Books add to my life. They give me intriguing stories, events, and knowledge. They can’t relate, but to me they are missing out.

So I wanted to share twenty of my favorite books:

What are some of your favor books? Do non-readers question your reading habits?

I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog.

A.G. Zalens

These 4 Popular Writing Techniques Baffle Me

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A new popular book, praise of the highest quality, amazing cover, compelling synopsis, and a short time to read. I start and realize the style doesn’t appeal to me. Disappointed, I try to read it, but usually abandon it before I finish.

Others love, love, love these stories and the authors have reached the perfect audience. I just don’t qualify and I wondered what aspects lost my attention.

I’ve narrowed it down to four styles that I tend to stay away from.

One Drama Packed POV with Little Action

I enjoy teenage angst in stories; it validates those awkward and emotional years. However, at some point the validation becomes excessive, and turns from “I know that feeling!” to “Make it stop!” A small portion of rich angst flavors the whole story, any more chips away at its beauty.

For me, a story coated with drama feels like my best-friend has taken over my mind for several days. Even though I anticipate the time with her, I’d rather not hear her every thought summed up in 100k words or less.

Another POV introduced into the book breaks up the internal voice and adds a new viewpoint. Especially when it’s from the perspective females worry over the most. The guy.

For example the girl might think this: He’s mad at me. I know it. He walked in, saw me, nodded, and kept talking on his phone. He only does that when he’s mad.

And then the next scene we get the guy’s perspective: Oh, there she is, I wish I could talk to her. At least I get to look at her cute dimpled smile while I finish convincing this difficult jerk to take back his crappy product.

Multi-POV, it’s the way to go.

Stylized and Figurative Language

You know, the books overwhelmed with metaphors, similes, accents, or stutters. In sporadic intervals this language brings a new angle and intrigue. The overuse becomes so predictable I can foresee the next metaphor before it pops into the text.

I understand the desire to include them, that transition to creative mode, clichés rejected, perfect comparisons found, and satisfaction of a show well done. However, every scene should include more dialog, internal voice, and action than metaphors, similes, and accents.

It’s perfect for back-story or short chapters of an alternate POV, but an entire book without a change is less like Shakespeare and more like a stuffy neighbor showing off.

Romance For No Reason

It’s possible for intended romance to lack romance; if the book is a romance than that’s a problem. All other books can do without the romance, especially if it doesn’t work out. The reader knows when it’s forced. I would rather its exclusion than its confusion.

Several issues with romance includes: the characters don’t know each other, no dialog has taken place between them, their dialog is always negative or disrespectful, it happens too fast, no redeeming qualities are present in one or both characters, or there is no evidence given that the characters actually like each other.

Romance requires a lot of care, preparation, and development. Anyone who writes romance should read at least ten romance novels before they include it. Knowing love doesn’t always transition to writing amazing romance.

History For The Sake of History

I know people enjoy their historical fiction. If the story takes place in Paris, readers expect abundant details. If the year is 1969, then Woodstock, hippies, long straight hair, and peace should appear somewhere in the story.

However, when the book’s theme doesn’t relate to the age, events, or structure of a building, it probably shouldn’t be included. Any past war that is irrelevant to the modern-day story should be brief in description, if described at all.

Just because the main character is reading a historical book about birds, it isn’t necessary to include a five-page quote from the book, unless your book is about birds. No matter how beautiful the text, the history of birds doesn’t belong in a science fiction fantasy romance.

Short descriptive and quick transitions move me through the story. The irrelevant history stalls it and I skim those parts. Any book that isn’t a historical fiction should exclude multi-chapter history lessons, unless it’s of a new world and the history provides substance.

What styles have turned you from a book? Are they popular or a rarity?

I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading my blog!
A.G. Zalens

10 Influential Authors Who Bounce Creative Energy

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Jane Austen

I’m a woman, with Jane Austen on my list: cliché, yet I can’t help it. I love her writing style, plots, character POV, and love stories. It would be an injustice to overlook the exceptional way she transcends an unattractive personality into a lovable character. It’s remarkable and a true inspiration to my writing.

Thomas Aquinas 

While in college, required reading included philosophers,  the only books that retained my attention were those fiction novels on my bookshelf, displaying their beautiful covers, begging for reading, it was difficult to focus on ”required reading.” However, Aquinas entices me with his wisdom and writing approach, maybe because the challenge he presents is irresistible.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Every writer must envy his masterful creation of a new world and creature. I know I do. Whenever someone mentions The Lord of the Rings I begin creating a new world of my own. His novels demonstrate how every detail is important, since they are what draw the emotional connection to the story.

C.S. Lewis

The Dawn Treader was the first book review I ever wrote, way back in grade school. His books stacked on my father’s bookshelf throughout my entire young life. They are a staple and another beautiful way of designing a new world for those of us who wish for his abilities.

J.K. Rowling

I see a pattern in my list of inspiring authors who have successfully developed alternate worlds. Clearly, I’m motivated by those who have pushed the boundaries and wrote amazing stories I couldn’t put down.

Timothy Ferriss

I read The 4-Hour Work Week several years ago and it pushed me on my organization, planning, and productivity. He has a great philosophy for the hours we should work and making those hours count. I also respect his achievements and the way he’s grown his business and blog strategies.

James Patterson

Periodically I get stuck in a genre rut and I seek out something I would enjoy in other sections. This is how I discovered Alex Cross, one of Patterson’s main characters. The way he integrates several different POV, his chapter lengths, the pace, the suspense, the thrill, I love it all.

Markus Zusak 

The Book Thief I read the first chapter and thought, this is the writer I want to be. The way he turns words upside down, inside out, and squeezes new meanings out of them is something I would love to do. Plus, the way he to an angle from a perspective that could be controversial but instead becomes an intriguing story. Amazing.

Rick Riordan

Before reading Percy Jackson’s story, I was reluctant to read something so young, but after seeing the movie I gave it a chance. Though, it was hard to start, once I did I regretted waiting so long to do so. He crafts a fun, action packed, and lovable story around characters I want to know in life. He’s another one who can design an original and keep it relevant.

Julie Kagawa

What I admire about her is her ability to move a story along without out all the background weighing it down. She moves a story forward with ease and makes the reader antsy to keep flipping pages. I love the way her characters are attractive without too much explanation.

I hope you enjoyed my list! Who are your inspirational authors?

Thanks for reading my blog!
A.G. Zalens

Witch of Blackbird Pond: Review

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Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare, HMH Books for Young Reader, December 1, 1958. 256 pages

This is one of my all-time favorites, simple, innocent, yet deep, meaningful, and thought-provoking.

Witch of Blackbird Pond the story of Katherine (Kit) a seventeen year old orphan moving from Barbados to Connecticut to live with her Aunt and Uncle’s family. Her journey takes place during a time when Puritans cities were popular in New England states, where unbelievers were witches, and outsiders were chased from towns.

Kit’s story begins with her travels across the ocean, her interactions with the Captain and his son Nat, and her abnormal behavior, pointing out her foreign attributes.

Once she arrives at her Aunt’s house she experiences a culture shock, the ocean water is cold, their family doesn’t have much, and she’s expected to contribute with the work load and attend their church functions.

Eventually, Kit meets an elderly woman named Hannah − a Quaker living on undesirable swamp land. Hannah has a frequent visitor in Nate, showing up when his ship docked in the area, completing difficult tasks for her.

By the end, the action builds, the romance blooms, and the friendships blossom: resulting in a compelling story worthy of a read…or two.

What I love about this story is the easy connection to Kit and how relatable her experiences are to everyone. Just living the teenage years can be like a culture shock! Always feeling as though no one understands you and finding comfort in the group of people who try.

The romance between Kit and Nate is provoking and sweet. I like the initial hesitation but eventual time taken to get to know each other. Even more attractive is Nate’s willingness to support her when she is practically alone.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting a quick read with intriguing characters and a compelling plot.

Thanks for reading my blog!

A.G. Zalens

The Hunger Games: Book Review

ImageThe Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Press, September 14th 2008. 374 pages

For my blog post I wanted to do something fun and write a book review; yet I couldn’t quit decide which book to start with. So, I decided on the book, which made the young adult genre into a completely new possibility for creativity: The Hunger Games.

For those who haven’t read this book (the few and far between) The Hunger Games is set in the future where one city rules twelve Districts; each sectioned off and required to do particular functions for society. In order to keep the Districts compliant one boy and one girl from each District are randomly selected to participate in the Hunger Games: a gladiator type battle where each child has to fight for his/her life to become the winner.

The story begins by introducing Katniss, a poor teenager with a younger sister and a grieving mother. Katniss spends most of her time illegally hunting in the nearby woods to feed her family and barter with her neighbors. Suzanne starts the book with appeal and interest right away; the illegality of Katniss’ actions keeps the book fast paced and full of anticipation.

With the novel’s body we see Katiniss volunteering as a contestant to save her younger sister, training to defeat the other contestants, and showing off to get sponsors to help during the Games.  We also meet Peeta the boy from District 12 and his potential as a love interest for Katniss.

The climax includes intense battles, strategic positioning, and an unexpected conclusion. A wonderfully well-rounded story, which draws the reader in and keeps them interested to the end.

When I first read this story, I was hooked by the originality and creativity wrapped around characters I wanted to read about. This story has the suspense that I love and the character interaction I adoreIt is no wonder I couldn’t put it down.

Thanks for reading my blog!

A.G. Zalens