Reviewing Reviews

miscAs a reader, I’ve written scores of reviews. Often under what I think are clever usernames so no one can truly peg who I am or what gender and/or demographic I represent. Why do I do that? Because I don’t want my reviews to be typecast or scrutinized as more than my opinion on the title. But until my first novel was published, I had no idea how important those reviews are.

I write reviews because I love good books, and I want other readers to find those books in the ever-growing tsunami of new books released in the ever-growing number of genres and sub-genres every day. Not everyone has to agree with me on books—I’m giving my opinion, what I loved about each book, why I would suggest it to my best friend. If someone doesn’t like it and offers a contrasting review to mine, that’s fine. I’m not going to say their review wasn’t helpful, because what they have to say is important to the type of readers who read books they prefer—not the books I enjoy. I don’t write negative reviews. I’d rather use my time to throw a spotlight on books I really want other people to read.

For fun and a bit of illumination on the subject, go out and do a Goodreads or Amazon search on your favorite author, then check out the range of stars and written reviews on that author’s books. Even titles held up as classics or best-loved are going to have negative reviews sprinkled in with all the many four- and five-star reviews. And that’s okay. Really. Because books are the great leveler in our society. There truly is something for everyone. While a good many of the books and stories I read in school were “because it was mandatory,” and many I would never recommend to my worst enemy, there was something in each that needed to be said to someone.

I belonged to a book club for several years, and one of the titles we discussed once was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Everyone in the group read the book, but one man in particular wanted to know why in the world anyone would want to read it, much less suggest it for a group read. I’d been a longtime Atwood fan, so kept my mouth shut to listen to the others respond. Several members offered a comments about why they liked the novel, but he wasn’t buying any of it. Finally, I spoke up and said, “It’s a cautionary tale. It’s something to think about if the wrong people control society.” In that instant, we all saw the light pass over his face finally, and he nodded and said, “Okay, I get it now.”

When we discussed John Irving novels, another of my favorite authors, I learned how about half the readers in our book club—despite being voracious readers—truly did not understand symbolism. Until our discussion, in our little circle on the second floor of our neighborhood indie bookstore, all of these readers missed so many important elements of the Irving title we read. Half went back and reread the book after our discussion, when the rest of us explained the symbolism and quiet information they’d missed. Nearly all realized they liked the book the second time, after dismissing so much in the initial read.

Reviews help readers see what others are thinking, and understand things read too quickly in our hurry-up-world. I read negative reviews as often as I read positive ones. Many times, the very things readers point out as reasons they didn’t like a title is exactly why I knew I wanted to read it.

Of course, as an author I wish every review of my books was a five-star glowing soliloquy to why it is the best novel the reader has ever read, and why that reviewer wants everyone in the world to read it too. Let’s be reasonable, though. That’s never going to happen.

However, honest reviews, thoughtful reviews, short, long, or medium reviews—all help the reader decide whether to choose a book and make a purchase. That’s what I’ve learned as an author—the power a review has to help some anonymous buyer decide from the words written by some anonymous reviewer that a title is exactly the one the anonymous buyer wants to purchase. Especially if the author is a “new-to-me” author to that purchasing reader. I’ve learned to add one quick line like, “I can’t wait for the next in this series” to my reviews, to not only tell readers what they need to know, but to also give the author a boost of confidence, too. Because I really do hate having to wait any longer than I have to, and I want to do everything in my power to make a favorite author write that much faster.

What about you? What’s your philosophy about reviews?




Don’t Miss This!

Wow! What a week. Our new release, Midnight Mysteries, came out a couple of days earlier than expected–with the booksellers trying to beat each another to the punch–so on yesterday’s official release date the sales roller coaster ride just went straight up! All the way to the #1 spot in Amazon’s Mystery Anthologies and #3 in Cozy Mysteries, to #127 overall on the B&N charts, and all the way to #1 for Kobo in Cozy Mysteries and #2 in Women Sleuths. Wow! Loved seeing that gold ribbon appear when the #1 spot was filled by our title.

These are all Brand New Stories from nine Bestselling Mystery authors, and feature the characters from eight fan-favorite mystery series. But that’s not all the good news–there’s more!

gift-to-our-readers-memeFor just the first week–ending this Sunday night–we’re offering this great new anthology for 99 cents at all booksellers. Come Tuesday, Sept. 20th, we’ll be raising the cost to the regular $2.99 price at Amazon. So anyone who loves great fall-themed mysteries, some spookiness, and a lot of fun–and especially if you want to purchase a format other than Kindle–hurry before everything changes next week. This book will only be available until mid-December, so don’t miss your chance to get a copy–or to take advantage of this bargain weekend!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember I previewed all the stories, and told all the series they tie to in a Preview blog earlier this month. But if you’re new here, or would like another look at the list, just Click Here for the Friday Preview for Midnight Mysteries. There are already more than 30 reviews–4 and 5-stars–and as I mentioned earlier, the title has gained its gold ribbon as a best seller on the Mystery Anthologies chart. We were So Excited Yesterday!

You can find all the currently available buy links here:


Kobo:  already taken down at Kobo morning 9/19

iTunes:  already taken down at iTunes p.m. 9/19

B&N:  already taken down at B&N evening 9/19

Happy reading, everyone!


Friday Preview–Midnight Mysteries

FP&OF memeI thought today would be a good day for a sneak peek at the short stories coming in a couple of weeks in MIDNIGHT MYSTERIES: 9 Cozy Tales by 9 Bestselling Mystery Authors.

Midnight Mysteries large web sizeAs I already mentioned in an earlier post, this collection has All Brand New, Never Before Published Stories from favorite mystery authors and feature bestselling mystery series. The book tops 400 pages, and I’ll post the buy link in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, look forward to these stories–

Ritter Ames“Organized for Masked Motives” (from the Organized Mysteries series) Kate McKenzie never dreamed when she started her business, Stacked in Your Favor, that she’d spend nearly as much time crime solving as organizing. But with Halloween approaching, and too many items on the to-do list, she and Meg Berman find themselves in another puzzling dilemma—where every answer leads to another question.

Morgana Best“No Time to Witch” (from The Kitchen Witch mystery series) Offering both a historical mystery and a paranormal flair, in this story Thelma Spelled must discover the mystery around a murder that entangles her and her husband. The tale is also a prequel to the novel Miss Spelled, and reveals more about the magic of the house, as well as about Australia in the early 20th century.

Karen Cantwell“It Takes a Ghost” (tie-in to the Sophie Rhodes mystery series) Newly promoted detective Brenna Sage wants to be taken seriously in her new position, but that’s difficult when she can’t solve a series of robberies in Stephens City. Until she gains a partner in the guise of Marmaduke Dodsworth. While Marmaduke might be better versed in decorum and refinement than forensics and interrogation, he has one decidedly clear advantage: He can walk through walls.

Carolyn Haines“Clacking Bones” (from the Sarah Booth Delaney series) When Jitty’s husband, Coker, goes missing from the Great Beyond, Sarah Booth Delaney, Tinkie, and all the animals sign on to find out why the spirit is AWOL. Sarah Booth has to dig deep into the past to find the answer to this puzzling mystery.

Eleanor Cawood Jones “Salad Days, Halloween Nights” (from the author of A Baker’s Dozen) A vegetable-loving chef finds he’s cooked his way into trouble when a Halloween treat leads to murder. If he wants a happy future, he must first make sure the police don’t have him down as the main ingredient in a recipe for a prison sentence.

Larissa Reinhart“The Vigilante Vignette” (from the Cherry Tucker Mystery series) Cherry Tucker can get herself into the worst predicaments without even trying. This time, a mercy call on a neighbor gets her roped into a quid pro quo deal—if Cherry recovers a stolen family heirloom that is both somewhat embarrassing and due to be discovered missing very shortly, the neighbor will use his family clout to help her with some zoning issues. But if she fails, the expression “someone’s got her goat” will take on a whole new meaning for Cherry. And when she discovers a thievery ring, illegal auctions, and some green-eyed emotions after spotting Luke where she doesn’t expect him—well, it’s just another hilarious day in Halo, Georgia.

Connie Shelton“Spellbound Sweets” (from the Samantha Sweets Magical Cozy Mystery series) It’s Halloween, one of the busiest seasons of the year for Samantha Sweet and the crew at her pastry shop, Sweet’s Sweets. The gang looks forward to a gala costume party at the neighborhood bookstore, but the evening takes a different turn when a guest is murdered, a rare book vanishes, and Sam finds herself in the midst of another mystery.

Maria Grazia Swan“Weeping Moon” (from the Lella York Mysteries series) Lella York has a way of getting herself into trouble, even when she’s doing volunteer work. Who is the mysterious storyteller, and what is going on at the senior living center? And will Lella find out before it’s too late?

LynDee Walker“Frightening Features” (from the Nichelle Clarke Mystery series) Nichelle Clarke is not a patient recovery patient. While she’s waiting for an injury to heal, all she really wants is a story to write and research—hard news to get her mind occupied, even if she can only work one-armed. Instead, her boss gives her a fluff piece. Not her idea of fun. But with Nichelle snooping around, it’s not surprising her soft story takes a decidedly hard turn.