Reading Round-Up: November Edition

This will be a short post for two reasons: first, I didn’t get much reading done this month because I’ve been so busy working on Be My Valencrime, and second, because it’s Thanksgiving week in the United States and people are too harried to read long posts over the next few days. ūüôā

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The first book I finished in November was¬†The Death of Mrs. Westaway (Ruth Ware)¬†which I’d wanted to read since it was released in May, 2018. It has a Gothic-y cover and a creepy housekeeper and a forbidding mansion on a neglected estate, so I figured it was right up my alley. I didn’t think it lived up to its hype, but I enjoyed it. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this story, with its creepy old house, its Mrs.-Danvers-like housekeeper, and its twists and turns. I didn’t give it five stars because I felt the mystery was a little forced and contrived in some places.”

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You know I love cookbooks. And I LOVE eggs. So when I saw Sunny-Side Up by Waylynn Lucas on the New Releases shelf at the library, I knew I had to read it. It has some great recipes, and there are tutorials on how to make a perfect egg, which I actually found enlightening. I tried the author’s trick of making creamy scrambled eggs by adding a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese to them, and the results were delicious! Here’s my review:

“This book has some unique recipes using eggs, but I was hoping for a little more oomph in the savory department and a little less oomph in the pancakes/waffles department. I’m looking forward to trying many of the recipes. Gorgeous photos.”

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Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World by Admiral William McRaven (Ret.) is another book I’ve wanted to read since it came out in 2017 and I heard about it on a news program. The book was smaller and shorter than I expected, making it a quick read that it completely satisfying. Here’s my review:

“I loved this little book. I don’t normally read inspirational stuff, but this one was full of stories about perseverance, heart, and courage. I highly recommend it.”

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And last, but certainly not least, was¬†Still Life by Louise Penny. This author has won award after award for her writing, and I’m embarrassed to say I had never read anything written by her. A friend gave me a copy of Penny’s first Inspector Gamache book and I’m so glad she did. Though I didn’t enjoy the first 50 pages or so, I found the rest of the book riveting and I’m glad I pushed through the beginning to reach the middle. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this book, the first in a series. I had a tough time with about the first 50 pages, but I’m glad I stuck with it because Inspector Gamache is a delight. I hope to see Agent Nichol in upcoming books, and I hope she learns some lessons about knowing when to keep her mouth shut. She was a great character–complex and compelling, yet aggravating in a good, literary way. I would love to visit Three Pines!”

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What have you been reading? Share your recent reads in the comments!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Amy

 

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up for March

Happy Last Tuesday in March! I don’t know if it’s going out like a lamb, as the old adage says, but it’s going out in a flurry of springtime weather, and I love it!

I read three books and one manuscript in March–I can’t tell you much about the manuscript except that it was by D.B Corey, an author skilled in the art of the thriller. The manuscript will hopefully be the eventual sequel to his book The Lesser Sin. I can tell you more when it’s available!

So on to the books I can tell you about: the first one,¬†Messing Around with Words, is a stark, heavy-hitting book of poetry written over the span of fifty years. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

“Stephen M. Honig has amassed a collection of poetry written over fifty years of his life, and the collection is like no other I’ve read. It’s passionate, raw, and poignant, yet relatable and accessible. The reader is both invited and thrust into the mind of the author, and the collection offers a fascinating look at the ways he and his world view have evolved.”

The second book is A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. I had read his book The Vintage Caper years ago, so I knew I would enjoy this one. I wasn’t disappointed. This follows the lives of Mr. Mayle and his wife just after they move from England to the Provence region of France. Their first year is filled with new neighbors, a new language, a new and befuddling work ethic, and lots of wonderful food. This was an enjoyable read from the first page to the last.

And finally, a friend told me of a book she was reading by Kimberly Belle. I looked for Ms. Belle’s books at one of my local libraries and I chose¬†Three Days Missing, a chilling account of a young boy who goes missing from a class camping trip. The book is told mostly from three points of view, but I won’t tell you who does the talking. And the narrator of the last chapter brings a little twist to the story. This is a book that will leave you breathless and reading long past your bedtime.

Please share what you’ve been reading in the comments below!

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

 

How to Write a Review

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Someone suggested to me recently that I should write a blog post about book reviews. It’s a great idea and I’m glad the person suggested it, because I’m always gently nudging (read: badgering, pestering) people to leave online reviews of my books and any other books they read.

Here’s why: especially on Amazon, the algorithm used to determine which books to promote is heavily based on the number of reviews a book has. In other words, the more reviews a book has, the more likely readers are to see it promoted by Amazon say, under “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” or “Products Related To This Item…”

The reviews don’t have to be good, they just have to be there. Quantity over quality, if you will.

Quantity over quality is not generally a good thing, but it is a good thing for people who are hesitant to leave reviews online. So here are a few points to consider when you hear an author ask for a review:

First, reviews that you post online don’t have to read like the¬†New York Times Book Review. There are very few rules about posting reviews. One of the only hard-and-fast rules is that you have to say¬†something (you can give a book a rating–for example, four stars– but that’s not the same as a review if you don’t leave any commentary).

Second, the point of a review is to let other readers know what you thought about the book and possibly a quick explanation of why you felt that way. Did you read a book and love it? Tell people. If you’re shy, just write what you loved most about it. For example, it’s perfectly fine to write “I loved this book because the characters were funny.” Heck, you can even say “I loved this book” and leave it at that!

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay/condesign

Third, if you want to share a little more or go into a little more depth, tell people what appealed to you about the book and what didn’t. For example, you can say, “The story moved at a quick pace and the characters were put into funny situations. The romance scenes may have been a bit stilted, but I’m happy the way the romance turned out.”

Fourth, it’s even okay to say “This book wasn’t what I hoped it would be,” or “This book wasn’t my cup of tea,” or something along those lines. But here I’ll make one request: if you’re going to say you hated a book with a passion, please please¬†do so diplomatically. Reviews have the power to ruin an author’s day (or week), so think about being kind while you lower the boom. Perhaps you can write why you didn’t like the book, because negative reviews can be just as enlightening for other readers as positive reviews.

Here’s an example: “I really didn’t care for this book because I didn’t realize it would have paranormal elements and I don’t read paranormal.” This review could be helpful to other readers who don’t like paranormal books, but it can also be helpful for those who do.

Fifth, and here’s where I’ll make another request. You know how you hate it when someone spoils the end of a movie you’re dying to see? The same thing happens when someone posts a book review with spoilers. Don’t ruin the ending for others. If you feel compelled to put something in a review that reveals some big secret in the book (like who the killer was, or who the girl ends up with, or whether the dog survives), please make sure you mark it in the beginning as¬†containing spoilers. That way people who don’t want to know the ending aren’t disappointed before they pick up the book. Or worse yet, decline to buy the book because they already know the ending.

So now that you’ve decided to write a review, where do you go to share it with the world?

After you’ve told all your friends how great the book is, there are lots of places where you can share your opinion. The most common are Amazon and Goodreads. You can also go to Barnes & Noble (bn.com), Kobo, iTunes, or pretty much anywhere you can buy books online. But that’s not all! You can put your review on Facebook, on Twitter (you may have to get creative with language, since you can only use 140 characters), Tumblr, or any of a host of other social media sites. And then there are blogs! If you have a blog, share your review!

Thanks for reading. Reviews are like gold to authors, as I’ve said many times before, so please consider writing a review the next time you get to “The End.”

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Michitogo

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. If you have any questions about anything in this post, please leave it in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.

Social Media Primer

When my editor called me in August, 2013, with the good news that Kensington wanted to publish my first novel, one of the things he told me was that I should have a presence on Facebook as a writer. It would allow readers to find me online easily and also allow them to interact with me and with each other. So I got a Facebook author page. The publisher also wanted me to be accessible to readers not on Facebook, so I started my blog, got myself a website, and signed up for Twitter, too.

I’m supposed to update the status of my author Facebook page at least once a day, but frankly, sometimes I find that a little forced. Even boring. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. For any of you who may be unfamiliar with Facebook, it is common for authors to dedicate a Facebook/social media page to news about their work, their author events, their publicity, etc. And it’s important to keep it updated so people know what an author is currently working on or promoting.

I like to use my author Facebook page to introduce readers to the places I write about. It’s common for a reader to find pictures of Boldt Castle, Singer Castle, the Thousand Islands, and other upstate New York locales on my author page. As I move into 2015 with a book out in April, I’ll be posting photos of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston more frequently, since that area of the U.S. is the setting for my new book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor.

I also like to post funny things I find online that might be of interest to readers, such as grammar puns, literary cartoons, and jokes about books.

I try to limit bald-faced promotion on Facebook and Twitter to one day a week, usually on Tuesdays, when I invite people to have a look at my blog post for the week. As a release date gets closer, I do have to do more outright promotion, so those posts become more frequent. The same is true for this blog. As you know, I often mention my books in my blog posts, but it’s almost always in connection with another point I’m trying to make. And as the release date nears, I point my blog readers to the places online where my new book is being featured. You are free to check out those sites, or you don’t have to. It’s completely up to you.

If readers aren’t on Facebook (and believe me, there are plenty of reasons not to be part of Facebook) or Twitter or they don’t follow my blog, they can always go to my website, where they can send me an email to contact me. They can also read more in-depth about my books and find music and wines that I suggest for a nice evening of reading.

Here are the links to the places you can find me online:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor
Website: http://www.amymreade.com
Twitter: @readeandwrite

Are there things you’d like to see on my author page, my blog, my website, or in my tweets? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts with me.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. If you’ve read Secrets of Hallstead House, would you consider leaving a review on Amazon, bn.com, or Goodreads? I never realized until I wrote my first book how important it is for readers to leave book reviews on these sites. Reviews help drive traffic to authors and businesses, and the reviews are very much appreciated. Thanks!

Sources for Readers

Writers are readers. Most of them have bookshelves spilling over with favorite books and ones they haven’t had a chance to read yet. If they’re anything like me, they have a list of about a hundred or more books that they want to read next, if only there were enough time in the day.

I know many of the people who read my blog are avid readers, too. So today I’m blogging about websites (and a couple other places) that are great for readers. They run the gamut from review websites to organizational websites to websites that will help you decide what to read next.

The first one, and my current favorite, is Goodreads. You can find and make friends on this site who have similar tastes in books, or you can use it on your own. You tell Goodreads the types of books you enjoy, then put titles on your virtual “Want to Read” bookshelf. If you wish, you can alert your friends when you’ve started or finished a book. You can review the books you’ve read or you can simply rate them (using a system of 1 to 5 stars). The more you use the site, the better the site becomes at pinning down the types of books you like to read and recommending other titles in your preferred genre. Just this week, a friend of mine reviewed a book that I’m going to pick up for my son. He’s always looking for good books, and I know he’ll love the one my friend read. Check out Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/.

One great website I discovered recently is at http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com. This is great for people who are looking for books that are similar to ones they’ve read and enjoyed. It’s simple to use: you just type in a title or an author’s name. A title or list of titles will come up and you click on one of them. You’ll be given a list of authors and titles that are similar to the one you typed. This is a great way to discover new authors that write books in the genres you like to read.

Shelfari is another website worth checking out. It’s at http://www.shelfari.com. Full disclosure: it’s owned by Amazon. Like Goodreads, it can help you catalog your books, allow your friends to view what you’re reading, what you want to read, your reviews, and your ratings of books. You can also join or start an online discussion about a book you’ve read.

Another website I follow is called Shelf Pleasure. It’s at http://www.shelfpleasure.com. Though generally for women, anyone can join or benefit from it. The site has recommendations and reviews for book lovers, author interviews and live chats, and an online book club. I always enjoy reading the different blogs on this site, but I especially enjoy the monthly blog entitled “Will Travel for Words” by Karen A. Chase.

A good website to check out if you’re interested in a book club might be http://www.onlinebookclub.org. There is a Book of the Month that you can read and discuss (as I write this, it’s still March and the Book of the Month for March is Inferno by Dan Brown). There are countless other discussions going on about lots and lots of other books, too- not just the Book of the Month. There are also book reviews, fun discussions that you can join (such as “Books that have made you cry?” or “Dating someone who doesn’t read?”), and a page on up-and-coming authors and new books.

One place where I have found lots of great book suggestions is http://www.npr.org. Or you can just listen on the radio. You will often hear author interviews and book reviews. One of the best interviews I’ve heard lately was with the author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid. He was fascinating, and though I haven’t had a chance to read his book yet, it’s getting closer to the top of my TBR pile. I’ve read a number of books by authors who have been interviewed on NPR, and I’ve never been disappointed. I encourage you to check out this great source for readers.

Last, but certainly not least, is your public library. I encourage you to visit the library, not just its website. The local library is a great place to learn about all kinds of classes, workshops, clubs, trips, activities for kids and adults, and of course, books.

I’d love to hear where you go for great book recommendations and reviews.

Until next week,

Amy