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Writing an Amazon book review: The good, the bad and the ugly

It’s a huge surprise that so many readers don’t leave book reviews, but for whatever reason  only a handful of buyers ever get around to evaluating their purchases. Reviews are the life blood of writers. Just like any good vampire will tell you without blood they’re history, the same goes for writers – who’s going to buy a book that no one else has? That’s why companies like NetGalley that provide free ARC’s (or galleys) to book bloggers etc for frank and honest reviews are so successful.  Amazon has its own policy on book reviews and it’s quite stringent, but it probably has to be – who wants to buy books that are reviewed by the writer or indeed family of the writer? However I don’t think Amazon has gone far enough with their current guideline.

Let me explain…

I’m reading a book at the moment that has received rave reviews on Amazon and then there’s this

A mistake you might think? I didn’t write it so I can’t tell the motives but I do know that it’s not the only one star the writer has received. Here’s the next one.


Surprised? I’m not. I’ve been examining other writers reviews for ages now and it’s not surprising at all that a would be reviewer leaves a comment like this. The reason? Well I’d hazard a guess that it’s in part Amazon’s fault. You know all those emails book buyers get from Amazon that say have you left a review for ‘x book ‘ yet? If I was a reader that wasn’t in the business so to speak I’d be tempted to blast off a review just like this if only to stop the spam mail and I think that’s what’s happening across the depth and breadth of Amazon. Amazon in an effort at helping us are in fact not.

So why leave reviews?

  1. If you’re read a good book it’s a way of sharing it amongst a wider audience. What did you like about it? Who does the writer remind you of if anyone? But don’t spoil it by adding Spoilers. It’s a bit like your bestie phoning you to tell you what happened in Corrie, or the latest football result – it’s just not done
  2. If you’ve read a book that you haven’t enjoyed it’s also a way of sharing this but it would be helpful if you could try and explain why. Writers really do want to know as there’s a wealth of difference in buying a book by mistake and a book that’s badly written, edited etc. Is it fair to blast a book that’s not for you, but still a good book in its own right? I only take note myself of negative reviews if the reader has something of value to offer. Is there a plotting problem? Is editing a problem? All books,  even the best sellers have mistakes, it’s whether there’s a couple in the whole book or a couple each page?

Why writers want you to leave reviews

  1. Fifty is the magic number – reach fifty reviews of your book and currently Amazon may choose to feature the writer’s book more widely – there are a host of other reasons but for the new writer on the block this is the bottom line.
  2. Writers enjoy connecting with their audience. We’re a strange lot. We spend most of the time holed up with a notepad and pen by ourselves – having any kind of social connection with the people we write for can only be beneficial. Most of us are on social media of some sort and most will admit to spending way too long connecting when we should be writing!

Amazon book review checklist

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Love notes for Freddie: Eva Rice

Book Blurb 

Every ending is a new beginning . . .

No one expected Marnie Fitzpatrick to be expelled from school . . . but the aftermath will haunt her forever.

No one imagined she’d fall for the boy from the wrong side of town . . . until the day she saw him dancing alone.

No one could know she had the one thing he needed to capture his dreams . . . the courage to chase them.

My Review

What a surprise – a delightful one.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I hadn’t read any reviews and I hadn’t read or even heard of the Richard and Judy hype that surrounded Ms Rice’s previous work until I strolled  over to Amazon to copy and paste the blurb. But isn’t that the best way to be? I had no preconceived notions, only her words and my thoughts.

As a writer books have two elements plots and writing style, or voice if you like. Some excel at one. Some writers have such a distinct voice that with one paragraph their name is shouting from the pages. Others hide their voice or lack of under the guise of careful plotting; plotting that frequently falls at the last hurdle. You only have to wander the many psychological thrillers that seem to have invaded the top places on Amazon at the moment, or to be more exact the lack lustre reviews to see what I mean. I’ve blogged before about how I hate sloppy ill thought endings – better to spend longer on that extra edit, Beta feedback than let your reader down. That’s  why Love Notes for Freddie gets 4.999 ⭐️. Call me picky but I’d have loved a little scene squeezed in between Marnie’s mother and her step-father after the haircut – that would have made this the perfect read.

Written from two perspectives – the voice of Marnie and her Maths Teacher, Miss Crewe Love Notes for Freddie deals with the aftermath of Marnie’s expulsion fom her public school, the repercussions of  which touch many lives. This is more than a love story. It’s more than a coming of age novel and, whilst elements of a Sixties Kitchen sink drama are evident it’s more than the sum of all these parts. The writing flows and Ms Rice’s strong empathetic voice screams through. There’s a flavour of Mary Wesley in the writing, I could easily see this in my library nestling up between Harnessing Peacocks and The Camomile Lawn.

Well written and unusual – what more do you want?

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC in return for my thoughts

Available from Amazon here

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+

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Breakfast under a Cornish Sun: Samantha Tonge


Book blurb

Kate Golightly needs to move forward and what better way to do that then with a trip to the Cornish coast with best friend and boss, Izzy.

The sea wind is just what Kate needs to finally relax and begin to let go of her past. Except she’s suddenly got one big reason to panic! She RSVP’d ‘yes’ to the Queen Bee of her high school’s wedding saying she’s bringing her boyfriend (she doesn’t have one) who looks just like Ross Poldark!

With only two weeks to find the Poldark look-alike of her dreams Kate is under a lot of pressure for the Cornish coast to deliver…

My review

For some reason over the last few reads I’ve left my comfort zone of feel good HEA’s for dark psychological books with uncertain endings and challenging plots. I have no idea for the divergence. Perhaps I felt in need of a change? Perhaps I felt too much of a good thing was causing my appreciation of the lighter feel good novel to wane – but all I can say is I’m delighted I’m back. 

Breakfast under a Cornish Sun is just that – a feel good read reminiscent a little of bygone times. There’s all the ingredients needed for a successful romance with sun, sea, cake and cocktails not to mention not one yummy Alpha Male but two. I can see this going all the way and fully expect it to be lurking in pole position as summer tumbles towards the Christmas countdown. 

Primarily this is a work about friendship, a friendship between two best friends (Kate and Izzy) and what Kate will do to save face as a wedding invite from another former BF is impossible to refuse. She accepts and then spends the rest of the book swinging between grief, dispair and hopelessness at finding the Poldark lookalike she rashly boasted as her current ‘plus one.’ 

The scene is Cornwall so what’s not to like. That’s where Izzy takes Kate on a girlie retreat week that turns out to be nothing like. 

As with Sam’s other works the writing is strong and filled with subtle humour that caused many a chortle to escape. The style is first person narrative with you, the reader being treated as another one of Kate’s large extended family. 

The worst thing about this book? It came to an end.

Thanks NetGalley for the ARC in return for an honest review – I read this in one sitting! 

Book link Here

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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The Butterfly Summer : Harriet Evans

Blurb

What magic is this?

You follow the hidden creek towards a long-forgotten house.

They call it Keepsake, a place full of wonder … and danger. Locked inside the crumbling elegance of its walls lies the story of the Butterfly Summer, a story you’ve been waiting all your life to hear.

This house is Nina Parr’s birthright. It holds the truth about her family – and a chance to put everything right at last.
My review

The Butterfly Summer is what I’d call a sad happy book. A book you’d like to hate but you can’t. It’s full to the brim of nasty characters. Men only after sex and power. Women damaged because of their shared history, despite a history that occurs generations apart. There’s not much to like and yet….

Aren’t we all a product of our upbringing and genetic profiles – Nature v nurture? In a way The Butterfly Summer is one woman’s quest to go against tradition and fight what other women in her family have failed to – the draw of Keepake. Is this a romance, a family saga, a mystery even – I’m still unsure as its none and yet all of these things. Nina is awkward, misguided and rudderless following her divorce. Can the mystery that surrounds Keepsake provide the direction she doesn’t realise she’s lacking until she bumps into an old lady in the library? Is her ex husband key? Malc and him are probably the only characters I really liked in the whole book but then I don’t think I was meant to like the others. A quote from the book says it all ‘He let us get flawed in the making’ (The well of loneliness). Ms Evans chose to write a book about flawed characters spanning centuries and actually manages to pull it off. 

A book to remember.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Book review, Murder on Clare Island

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This review is so hot off the press – book launch today – here’s the all important Amazon Link

i chose this because I’d heard that Murder on Clare Island has been called the most unusual murder ever so I contacted Valerie for an ARC as I like to make my own judgements…If you’d like an ARC you might be lucky she’s on Twitter as valeriekeogh1

This is my latest read by a surprisingly diverse Indie writer. The last Valerie Keogh I read, SUCH BITTER BUSINESS was about a psychopathic murdering nurse but the Garda West series is different. It’s gentler somehow, the writing more subtle and the plot… Don’t get me started on the plot!

Okay so I write romances but that doesn’t mean I don’t know a thing or two about Killer Thrillers. I was brought up on Mother’s milk and Agatha Christie – nearly the best murder genre writer there was (the best, as any good reader of this genre will know was Wilkie Collins!). There’s a ghost of Tommy and Tuppence within this book (Agatha Christie – Partners in Crime) – the romantic interplay is lovely, the discrete sex scenes only there to underpin a developing relationship between the two main characters.

The locations are to die for – Dublin (as a Dub I loved being able to picture in my minds eye Kelly’s Foxrock apartment ) and then Galway, but not Galway a little island off its coast called Clare Island (shush, don’t tell anyone – I’d never heard of it).

Clare Island seems to be the perfect place for Mike and Kelly to cement their growing relationship until the body count starts rising.

So you know when you’re reading a mystery, you’ve invested time and money on religiously reading the blasted thing till the end only to find the author has introduced in the last couple of pages dear old Uncle Paddy recently returned from a trip to Mexico just because the aforesaid writer was too lasy or inexperienced to wrap up the plot in a more adventurous way?  Well Murder on Clare Island is nothing like that!

Just like a good Agatha Christie or a bad episode of ThroughThe Keyhole the clues are there. The killer is there lurking in every chapter leaving whopping red herrings all over the place. The end ( no spoilers) of all Valerie’s series titles is different. You’ll have to read it to see where I’m coming from. After the murder’s been wrapped up. After the guilty are charged she leaves a sting in the tale that will keep you thinking late into the night.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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This Last Kiss, by Madeleine Reiss

Book blurb

This Last Kiss is the perfect emotional and romantic read.

Rora Raine is finally coming home to Hastings, twelve years after she left her grief-stricken father, and fled the love of her life, Carl.

Struggling to support her bright but troubled daughter, Rora has convinced herself she’ll never love again. When she meets a bumblingly charming stranger, Rora’s heart begins to thaw.

But, try as she might, she can’t run from true love forever.

Funny, warm-hearted and soaringly romantic, This Last Kiss is the redemptive story of two star-crossed lovers, told through each and every kiss they share.

 
My review

This Last Kiss is in essence a modern day fairytale – a cleverly structured HEA divided into distinct paradigms with, instead of “days” kisses. There’s the two hero’s Rora and Carl, the wicked step mother ( or in this case two – Rora’s dad and Carl’s mother) and the fairy godmother (Isobelle). Plotted over a twelve year time span the story slowly reveals the bones of Rora and Carl’s relationship from childhood to adulthood, as history repeats itself through Rora’s daughter. But will history repeat itself or will Rora be able to guide her daughter away from the hidden demons that haunted her mother?

All this intricate plotting is set in the seaside town of Hastings, which I should have Googled but I believe is somewhere up north (give me a break, I’m Irish). There’s tasty morsels for those reading aficionado’s amongst you. The Hattie Jacques nurse (what nurse ever wants to be alluded to as matron!) and the Comical Pole (do Poles eat cabbage?)

I usually try and compare books to movies but in this I’ve failed because I haven’t seen it yet so instead I’ll going to throw a couple of books at you. They happen to both be favourites amongst my top thousand or so…

Vince and Joy ( Lisa Jewell) because of the way Rora and Carl’s relationship developed and changed over time and finally, going back to my fairytale analogy The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield.

Finally a note of caution – sometimes a reader and a writer’s happy ending aren’t exactly the same thing but that’s not necessarily  a bad thing –  I can’t abide guessing an ending. My fairytale analogy stands – any fairytale worth its salt has many dark moments  as it does stolen kisses. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Jen

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All is Not Forgotten, by Wendy Walker: Book review


Book blurb

Jenny’s wounds have healed.

An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack. She is moving on with her life. That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.

Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching. And she’s getting worse.

Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack. And that could destroy as much as it heals.

My review.

Although not my usual read I carried on past the five pages mainly because of the unusual narrative voice – we don’t get to know who is telling the tale until we get into the thick of it, and by then it was too late – the story had taken on a life of it’s own. 

It’s an all American tale a little reminiscent of American Beauty. The perfect family, not just one family but four. Four small town family tales within this story that intertwine to the ultimate conclusion.

A girl is attacked, the most horrific of attacks – an attack that devistates her parents, but also brings to light their troubles at home. There’s the disfunctional mother, the hard working and now distraught father not to mention the inexperienced 9-5 police officer trying to find the attacker.

And then there’s Alan, the psychiatrist and narrator. He’s been called in to treat Jenny in an effort to try and piece together the fragmented pieces of the attack that were partially eradicated by a new experimental treatment used in PTSD. All is not rosy in his own family back yard and, like Lester Burnham (American Beauty) we are increasingly drawn into his own imperfect life.

Sean, another one of Alan’s PTSD patients – does he hold the key as his life with his wife and son unfolds? 

The final family – well that would include spoilers….

This is a unique exploration into the loves, lives, fears and fantasies of a small American Town. It’s not an easy read but then again that wasn’t the intention. It challenges how we see ourselves and, probably more importantly how we see our neighbours and our friends. My father used to say we never know what goes on within a family, within a marriage when the door closes – that’s never been more true than here. 

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC