Category Archives: Book Reviews

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012!

Book Chick CIty

Well, I’ve done it. I just signed up to do the Book Chick City Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012!

I read a ton of books each year and I always write reviews, so I might as well get them out to a wider audience.

During the year I will post my reviews on here as well as my other usual haunts. Reading mysteries? Why don’t you sign up with me?



And the Winner is…

Family Matters by Jacqueline Vick

Buy Now at Kindle!

Well, it is just past noon on Christmas Day and I’d like to say my Begging for Reviews contest was a 100% success, however… I will have to settle for saying it was a huge success.

Last week I offered to give away a Kindle Touch to one lucky winner if reviewers (of any level) posted 50 reviews onto the original Blog post. Here is what happened.

Free Book Sent – 55

Reviews Posted – 25

It’s not bad overall, I hoped for more, but this makes me very happy. On behalf of all the author reviewed, we sincerely thank you for your time and willingness to jump at my request. Your reviews have already began earning us sales and for that we will remain sincerely appreciate.

Now, about the Kindle Touch. I had kept in my mind that if at least 40 reviews were posted, I would go ahead and give away the Kindle. Unfortunately that did not happen. So in the spirit of Christmas, I have decided that I would go ahead and give away a $25.00 gift card to instead.

The winner was chosen by my husband who had no idea what the heck I was doing. He picked a number and that was that.

Congratulations to Jackie Vick.  I will be sending her the gift certificate.

I hope in the future all of you will consider reviewing books (not just ours) on a regular basis. I can also tell you that I hope you will continue to read my Blog and Echelon books. You never know when I might have another contest, or what I might want to give away!!

May this day be filled with nothing but joy to all of you and those you love. Thank you again!!

So Close…Yet So Far

An Angel's Wish by Karen L. Syed

Not too late to read my little itty bitty short story. BUY NOW!

Here it is the eve of the eve of the eve of Christmas. Did I count that correctly? At any rate, I thought I would give you all an update on the WTF? Begging for Reviews Contest. These numbers are as of right now. So, before I go any further, you might want to tell a few friends about this one. You’ll see why in a moment.

Books Sent: 50 (notified that 3 people cannot meet the 12/24 midnight deadline, so technically only 47.

Book Reviews Posted: 12 (Okay, we need 50 posted if I am to give away that Kindle Touch. I know, grumble grumble…rules is rules.)

Books Selected: As of this morning all 10 books have been selected for review. THANK YOU!

Happily, I have only take a small bit of rubbish for my methods with this contest, but it served a very important purpose–actually several.

1. It helped a few people realize that they were qualified to review books and that they could in fact write solid reviews.

2. It opened up the eyes of many authors who thought (seriously) that the reviewers would come looking for them. I wish it were true. Would save me a lot of hours in many days, but as publishers and authors we MUST seek out the reviewers.

3. In at least a couple instances, it helped readers realize that its okay to step a little bit out of their comfort zone because they might just find an author, or a genre, they didn’t know they would enjoy.

4. And most importantly for Echelon and our authors, it got us out there into some new forums. For more than a decade I have sought reviews with almost no success, and without really knowing why, we have sat aside feeling neglected.

So far the reviews posted have been solid and I feel the readers have been pretty honest. I have learned a lot and will make every effort to enhance the quality of our books from this point on.

So, get out there and tell ALL your reader buddies that YOU want to win a Kindle Touch so they need to read a book or two by Midnight 12/24. If they really love you, they will. (okay, I know that never really works, but I couldn’t think of anything any more clever to close with.)

But since I just added that other stuff, I am now closing this post, in a non-comedic way. That means not funny, cause hubby says, I think I’m a lot funnier than I really am. He has other good qualities. LOL He irons his own clothes. I know, right. How cool is that?

And to lizziecracked (not broken) who write the Running Naked With Scissors Blog (which you really should follow) I give you this link. The History of Christmas. You asked about Christmas and when it actually started or something like that, and then somewhere you asked for links, I wasn’t sure exactly what links you wanted, but I assumed it was in reference to the whole Christmas thing, so I went out this morning (cause I had so much time to waste, and I found this link that I think gives a rather good description of the history of Christmas and while I was raised a Christian, I always had a problem with that whole Jesus born in December thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Pick Your Battles Wisely

Force of Habit by Marian AllenWell, it was bound to happen. After a week of begging for reviews (WTF? Begging for Reviews), I finally got the email I had been expecting–took a little longer than I would have thought. Yes, you guessed it. I pissed someone off by asking for reviews, no “begging like a spoiled child” is what I supposedly, actually did.

What kind of publisher would post a Blog telling the world that no one would review your books?” Have I lost my mind? What the hell as I thinking? Um, the fact that many of our books had no reviews might have been a sign to the world. Furthermore.

Is it your goal in life to ruin the careers of all your authors?” How dare I? No kidding, why would I want readers to tell other readers what they thought of our books. That might actually encourage someone to go out and buy one of the books. I suck!

Perhaps no one reviews your books because you publish mediocre writers who can’t get published anywhere else.” Um..yeah, that’s it. I only publish people who suck.

Come on, Asshat. Really? I have not, nor will I respond directly to this person–who by the way submitted to us and was rejected. Obviously they read my blog and can see my response here. So you all know, I am not taking my professional hat off, but I am tipping it a little to the side.

Who do you think you are? Seriously. You have the audacity to question my intentions and level of professionalism? Did you think I would not recognize your name when you signed your email? I do keep records. Did you think that sending a publisher a note calling them names and insulting them would gain you favor anywhere? Did you really think I would NOT post my response publicly? You obviously have not read enough of my posts. You should consider yourself lucky I did not take off the professional hat, or your name, email address, and web address would be in HUGE bold letters with this response. I’m sure I will get more than one request from Echelon authors to know the name of the person who called them all mediocre.

There is something you obviously have not learned about me throughout the years that I have been blogging and speaking freely about my role in the industry. I am not a lemming. I do not follow along blindly and let everyone else dictate how I run my business or my life. I have every intention of continuing to succeed in this business. I have not “failed to intrigue or energize readers or reviewers with lackluster plots and mediocre writers.” I have published damn good stories that entertain readers. And if some of our books have errors in them, then I sincerely apologize, but we are human.

People, authors, readers, etc, don’t let stupidity rule your life. If you don’t like something, then find a considerate way to say it. This isn’t about publishing, it’s about human decency. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say or do, but if you don’t, then either give me constructive advice, or shut the hell up. Don’t keep telling me that I am doing something wrong until you have solid advice on how I can do it better.

I would wager there are tons of people out there who don’t agree with my tactics for gathering reviews, I thank you all for not sending me pissy emails calling me a “hack publisher wannabe.”

With all that said, please don’t think this has swayed me in any way from my path to riches and success. There are still four more days for you to request your book and get those reviews posted on the original blog post to be entered to win the Kindle. So send me those requests. The family won’t mind sandwiches another day so you can finish that book.

And to those of you who have requested books and are sending/posting your reviews. I cannot thank you enough. Your support of Echelon is very much appreciated.

Begging for Reviews: UPDATE

Betrayed by Sam Morton

Okey Dokey. I thought I would let everyone know where we stand right now with the review contest.

Don’t know what the hell I’m talking about? Pop over and read

I have sent out 23 downloads.

I have received 2 reviews.

8 of the 10 titles offered have been requested.

Don’t forget that there is a deadline for this contest, and I hate to be a grinch, but we need to see 50 reviews for me to give that Kindle away.

So tell all your friends. Authors, this is a GREAT way for you to get some promo because you can post your byline with your review. Yeah, I said it. I ENCOURAGE it. If you are willing to take the time to review one of our books, I am perfectly happy for you to get a little play from it. (Just don’t abuse it. LOL)

Reviewers Gone Bad

In keeping with my theme this week, I wanted to touch lightly (not that I do much lightly) on book reviewers that go rogue…or in some cases, bad. What constitutes bad in the review industry? Okay, before I tell you, here is my standard disclaimer: these are just my opinions. I am not a professional book reviewer, I don’t claim to be an expert. I am simply an author and a publisher who has to interact with reviewers on a regular basis.)

So, where was I? Oh yeah, bad reviewers. Over the last twenty-five years, I have read a lot of reviews. Some of them are stellar, even when the reviewer didn’t like the book. Others have been downright embarrassing for the rest of us in the industry. Here are my five top things that make reviewers bad.

5. Anorexic reviews. If you are a reviewer, write a review. Don’t offer a blurb. “I loved this book. The author has done it again with a great mystery.” This is NOT a review, it is a blurb. This is what authors/publishers use on book covers and in ad copy. A review is a breakdown of what you thought of the various aspects of a book. Plot, characters, description, writing style, etc.

4. Excessive spoilers. For the love of Pete, why would any reviewer who had a clue give away key points of a plot? I just want to kill someone when I read a review that reveals who, what, where, why, or when of a mystery plot when I’m supposed to figure it out as I read. Come on people, show some consideration. If you need a description of the book, use the publishers so you don’t tell secrets.

3. Glossing poetic. Big words, and colorful adjectives that don’t offer a damn bit of anything about the actual book. I don’t care if ” the author writes a blissfully elegant tale.” Yeah, yeah, I get that, someone else thought the same thing and published it. Why would you tell us that “everything about this book sings to my emotional side.” What the hell does that mean? Is the plot solid? Do the characters come to life on the page with their hilarious antics? Does the setting come to life and offer readers a glimpse into the perfectly flawed community of gnomes? Tell us what you think of the damn book.

2. Charging money. I get it, everyone needs to make money, but in this industry, it just isn’t right. The reviewer is getting a free book and has (in most cases) chosen to offer their opinion. If they work for someone else, then it is up to the employer to pay the reviewer. NOT the author/publisher.

1. Vicious attacks. Book reviews are NOT a platform for venting your anger or hostility. Do not take a bad day and turn it into a tirade against an author who just happens to headhop in their book–or whatever. No one wants to read a review that calls the author a talentless hack who couldn’t write a halfway decent book on a good day. No one cares if you think the author has wasted paper by penning a book about two people too stupid to live, much like the author. This is just mean and it serves no good purpose. When you write a book review, you are reviewing the BOOK, not the author. If the book is poorly written then find a halfway considerate way to say “While the story had promise, perhaps the author could focus a bit on general grammar rules.” It makes the point without making the author suicidal. Mean reviews lead to me to think that those who can’t say mean things about those who were brave enough to try.

Just because you call yourself a reviewer doesn’t make you a good one. There are simple rules for every little thing in life we do, and if not rules, then at the very least guidelines. If you take on the responsibility of reviewing, then take it seriously and do it in a respectful manner. You are not going to like every book you read, but that doesn’t give you the right to ensure that no one else does either. Offer some insight, without being an ass.


How I Write a Book Review

Hullo! After writing yesterday’s Blog Post [WTF? Begging for Reviews] I received several emails from folks who said they would like to review one of our books, but they didn’t know how to write a review. A couple even said they had Googled for the info, but got so many different ways, they were left confused.

Since I am asking for reviews, I will tell you how I write reviews. This is not a rule or even a guideline. It is simply how I choose to do it, and you are welcome to give my method a try, if you’d like.

First: I try not to offer up a synopsis of the story. As readers we see different things and we may see them differently. If the review requires a description, I use the jacket copy provided by the publisher/author.

Second: Now, I said the description was first, but for me it really isn’t. It was just easier to start there. I try to make my first paragraph about my initial reaction of what I thought of the book/story. I write quite a few reviews, so this may vary a little, depending on my mood.

Skeleton in a Dead Space by Judy AlterFor example:

You should really read this book. I mean if you like cozy mysteries with spunky heroines and situations that could easily happen to you. from the opening chapter, Judy Alter takes the reader through the adventures of a real estate agent who just happens to own a property with a skeleton in the closet. Literally.

Third: The next paragraph or two (I try to keep them short), I go into a little more detail about what I liked or didn’t like. I try to include at least one or two comments about the plot, the pacing (how easy it was to stay in the flow of the story), the characters, and if the use of surroundings is good I like to comment on that as well.

For example:

When first we meet Kelly O’Connell it appears she is at the beginning of a normal day. But one phone call changes all of that. She’s got a remodel going on and now there’s a dead body, and old dead body, mucking it up.

From the discovery of the body to the resolution of the mystery, the author treats readers to a variety of unique characters and situations. We get goofy people, we get seriously mean villains, and we get a hint of potential romance.

Lastly: I use this final paragraph to give my overall opinion of the book. I try to offer up at least one solid sentence that the author/publisher could use on bookmarks or their website. I do that as a courtesy. This paragraph is all about what I want to tell other readers. I am after all, reviewing as an aid to other readers. A review is an opinion and they will be different from every reader, because we all like and notice different things.

For example:

No one aspect overshadows any of the others and I consider this to be one of the best paced stories I’ve read in a while. Not a particularly clever mystery, but solid and enjoyable. I look forward to the next book in the series. This is author one to watch.

I’ve been asked why I choose to write/post negative reviews. I don’t consider any of my reviews negative. I consider them honest. There are some books that just don’t please me. In fact, some really bug me. I post those reviews as considerately as I can, but with my honest opinions. What I say about a book, whether good or bade, is not law. It is my OPINION. Many mothers remind us that “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.” It’s true.

I post reviews so that other readers can get an idea of what I saw when I read. And if they find something in my review that excites them (quirky characters) then it will encourage them to read the book. If they agree with me that (there is too much history in large dumps) they may skip it. It is their choice. I personally will not read a book that has no negative reviews. I can’t imagine a book that every single person likes. I prefer to read honest reviews about books so I can make a somewhat educated choice.

As an afterthought, I don’t recommend you ever EVER use a review to voice your personal opinion on an author. Reviews are not a tool for bashing people you don’t like. This seems to have gained some momentum lately and it is just bad form as a human being. You are not reviewing the author, you are reviewing the book. Leave the personal insults out of it. And if for some reason you find that a book has a tremendous amount, or even a small amount of technical errors, be delicate in your comments. Some book shave errors but are still great reads.I usually write:

Please note that this book contain some editorial errors, but they did not distract me from the story.


Please note this book contains editorial errors that I did find distracting to the story.

Simple and not vicious.

I hope this helps those of you who were looking for a little guidance for writing book reviews. If not, then no harm no foul.

The examples I used are from my actual review of  Skeleton in a Dead Space (A Kelly O’Connell Mystery) by Judy Alter.