I’ve Received the Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’m really excited about my reason for finally updating: I’ve been nominated for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

dragonaward

How awesome is that award? Fellow blogger, Goodreads pal, Twitter friend, and all-around kickass writer Sara Letourneau was kind enough to pass this award on to me last week when she was nominated. She also nominated me for a Liebster Award a while back, but I never posted about it since I already have one (still, it’s pretty awesome to have a second nomination, and I’m considering keeping a tally on my Awards & Badges page. Thanks, Sara!)

Sara’s a fantastic blogger with a lot of great insight about writing, and I recommend you check her site out immediately. Not just saying that because she’s a friend or because she nominated me; I look forward to her posts, especially those that detail her novel-writing journey! She also reblogged my last post, Should Authors Write Negative Book Reviews?, which brought a lot of readers and lively discussion to my page, so I guess I just have buckets of thanks to give.

But before this post gets too long—seriously, do I have any concept of brevity?—I should probably continue with the award acceptance. Here are the rules for accepting the Dragon’s Loyalty Award:

  1. Announce your win with a post, and link to whomever presented your award.
  2. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
  3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.
  4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post.
  5. Display the award certificate on your website.

All easy enough. So, onward! Here are my 7 interesting(ish?) things:

  1. I’m on a “fitness journey” of sorts. Earlier this year, I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start obtaining the level of health and fitness I’ve always wanted. I geared up with a fitness buddy, my now-boyfriend, who really kicked me into shape and kept me motivated. There may or may not have been quite a few cursing sessions at the gym, but thankfully, he was good-humored enough to laugh it off and push me further. I now lift twice per week, run 3 times per week, and run the occasional 5k and mud run. I’ve lost 12 pounds and I’m starting to see some slight muscle gains, which is awesome! I’ve also recently become obsessed with hiking, which is my new favorite activity for fall and spring weekends.
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  2. I adore cooking and baking (and I’m obsessed with food). “I’m a foodie” is a statement that basically anyone can apply to themselves with some level of accuracy (who doesn’t love food?), but there are no words for the happiness that cooking, baking, meal prepping, and just gazing at mouthwatering recipes on Pinterest and Instagram bring me. Nutrition is a huge part of my fitness journey, so if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d have a pretty hard time reaching my goals. Here is my Pinterest, where you can find my crazy-organized recipe boards (and, yes, a few writing boards as well)!
  3. I’m lucky enough to travel quite often. From what I can recall, I’ve been to Disney in Orlando twice, the Dominican Republic three times, Bahamas twice, and Hawaii, Bermuda, Ireland, Italy, and Greece once each. Have my sights set on London & Scotland next, but need a bit of a break from international travel for the sake of my savings account. Still, I hope to make it to the West Coast for the first time ever this upcoming year.
  4. I’m ahead of my Goodreads reading challenge goal! I’m only ahead by 3 books, and my goal is only 24, but that’s still a huge improvement for me. In college, I didn’t have much personal reading time while I worked on all my assignments, so I’d read only a handful of books per year. Then I started working full-time and just decided I didn’t have enough time to read often, which was seriously detrimental to my writing. This year was a test for me—2 books per month—not because I’m that slow of a reader, but because I need to re-learn how to prioritize things that I enjoy but often fall to the wayside. I’m hoping to surpass my goal by reading 30 books by the end of the year, and then next year, I’m bumping that number up even further!
  5. I have a cat, a bearded dragon, and a betta fish.10849875_10205828322049872_7967055442715317363_n

    I’ve always loved pets and have had 2 golden retrievers, multiple fish, 2 hamsters, a parakeet, a frog, a parrot, and an anole lizard in the past. My dream is to have a female pitt bull and a male dalmatian named Reggie and Otto (shout-out to my fellow 90s kids who get that reference!). In fact, my childhood obsession with the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians led me to name my black and white spotted kitten Pongo.

11951287_10207969557099410_4396820522804667060_nHe’s a terror, but I love him.

  1. I discovered my love for writing through anime fanfiction. I used to spend HOURS of my time on Fanfiction.net after a friend of mine got me into Yu Yu Hakusho when I was around 13-14. Reading others’ fanfiction turned into writing my own, and from there, I started branching out and writing original stories on Fanfiction.Net’s sister site, FictionPress. My first couple of stories were insanely cheesy and terribly written, but they sparked that passion and love for writing that eventually led to pursuing a career in it.
  2. My dream is to write from home on the coast, somewhere warm like California, in a house of my own. Said house needs to have a nice kitchen and, of course, an office chock full of novels, writing manuals, and other inspiration. 😉

That was a whole lot of me, so it’s time to share the love. Here are the 15 bloggers I nominate for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award:

  1. Faye Kirwin for her website Writerology, which is a huge asset to any writer looking to connect with their characters and make writing a habit.
  2. Taylor Eaton, who writes some of the most magical flash fiction I’ve ever read.
  3. Mazie Bishop, our contributor over at The Sprint Shack, who is insanely creative and inspiring.
  4. Ryan’s Book Review, because I’ve always been impressed with the variety and frequency of his reviews.
  5. Raychel Rose, a Goodreads buddy, who has great taste in books and just published her debut novel, Psychopomp. Congrats, Raychel!
  6. Taylor Leigh D’amico. A while back on Twitter, we discovered we’re essentially the same person: [tweet 593569033326178305 hide_thread=’false’]
  7. Katie O’Shea – she’s a Pitch Wars 2015 mentee, not to mention one of the co-founders of the awesome #WriteFit! Her occasional check-ins on Twitter keep me accountable.
  8. Ann Marjory K, other #WriteFit buddy whose tweets keep me inspired.
  9. Jessi Esparaza, Katie’s co-founder for #WriteFit who—you guessed it—also holds me accountable (seriously, thanks ladies!)
  10. Cait Reynolds—because I adore her novel Downcast, her adorable pooch Denny, and her witty humor on Facebook.
  11. Sarah Kettles, because she did so much amazing work on Summer Nights and helped get it out to the world!
  12. Marie Hogebrandt, a fellow Summer Nights author, whose imaginative site Smaty hosts her unique “Viking historical fiction and contemporary magical realism inspired by Scandinavian folklore (including the Norse gods).”
  13. Sean Burkett – he hasn’t blogged in some time, but I enjoyed reading his work and I hope this encourages him to come back to us. 😉
  14. Blaise @ The Book Boulevard . I just recently found her site when discussing book reviews, and love it! It’s not just limited to book reviews, but has other posts including writing advice, discussions, and personal updates.
  15. Speaking of bookish sites, I have to nominate The Book Geek. I doubt they display awards like this, but those amazing and talented reviewers deserve the mention anyway.

Phew… that’s a lot of linking in a very long post. I’m going to cut it off here to avoid losing anyone (if I haven’t already!), but just want to say again, THANK YOU Sara! 🙂 I’m off to alert everyone to their nomination and update my Awards & Badges page.

Until next time!

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Should Authors Write Negative Book Reviews?

As anyone who visits this blog or follows me on Goodreads can see, I’ve been pretty invested in book reviewing lately. It’s something I started way back when I blogged for Let The Words Flow and continued through my still-ongoing stint contributing for Paper Droids. I enjoy it, but lately, I’m questioning the practice.

I most recently reviewed Eleanor Herman’s Voice of Gods and Legacy of Kings. I was thorough and honest in my reviews, and even mentioned in my review for LoK that I want to be more straightforward with my reviews and ratings; I used to be the kind who would mostly rate books 4 and 5 stars for pure enjoyment factor and never really look deeper. Now that I’m a more “serious” writer, I want to take a more analytical eye to the works I read.

But while writing these, I felt an old, nagging worry resurface from the days of my very first negative reviews: what if the author reads this? Am I building up poor writer karma for myself? And what if, one day, I meet that author?

Do authors and aspiring authors have any place in book reviewing?

I reached out to Sara Letourneau on this topic since she also writes reviews in addition to her own work, and she had this great insight:





I both agreed and didn’t. I want to play it safe, but I also want to explore different ways of writing and reading. I want to keep my blog active and create a brand. But what kind of brand am I really forming by writing these reviews? It dawned on me that it might not be as positive as I thought–especially now that my Goodreads profile is that of Author instead of Reader.

I wanted to write about this because I was genuinely torn on my answer and writing is the only way I come to conclusions on difficult topics. I read a few articles and forum threads, reached out to Twitter, and eventually came to a conclusion. But before I go into my ultimate decision, I want to discuss the pros and cons I came up with:

The pros – or, why I write book reviews in the first place

  • Writing about what you’ve read helps you form stronger bonds with the material, improving your memory of its characters and plot. My memory often seems unaware that it belongs to someone only in her twenties, and so I enjoy reviewing because I too often forget the details of even some of my favorite books.
  • Knowing you have to write a review makes you read more analytically. At least, that’s the case for me. We all begin our writing careers as readers, and it can be difficult to separate “reading like a reader” from “reading like a writer.” I like to think I fall somewhere in-between—I read both for enjoyment and to improve my writing—but sometimes I could use the extra prod to dig deeper.
  • The book reviewing community is a wonderful place. There are a few rotten eggs including trolls, flamers, and plagiarizers, but it’s also an incredibly fun community filled with brilliant minds who engage with and look out for one another. I love talking about books, and since not a lot of people I know read what I read, this community gives me a place to do that.
  • You get advanced copies of unreleased books! This is the wrong reason to start reviewing in the first place (and it certainly wasn’t mine), but it’s definitely a perk. I’ve always craved the ability to get ARCs and read the latest and greatest before anyone else, so I thought reviewing more regularly would give me the credibility I needed to receive early copies and build rapport on NetGalley.

The cons – or, is it worth the risk?

  • You never know who you’ll meet. Say you write a negative book review—albeit a thoughtful and analytical one*—and a few months later you meet that author at an event. Conferences are a great place to pitch your work, but if that author finds out you’re that reviewer, you may have a hard time making many connections there. This doesn’t even have to be out of any malice on the author’s part, either—people talk, and even though it’s a creative field, publishing is still an industry and all industries have politics. Someone who hears about your negative review may simply decide that you’re not professional enough to work with them.
    *Note: for the sake of this post, I’m talking strictly about constructive reviews; I don’t think aggressive, snarky reviews have any place under an author’s pen.
  • Writing reviews takes time away from your actual writing. I’m going to quote Redditor ThomasEdmund84 on this one: when discussing the cons of book reviewing, he said, “I got addicted to reviewing and oftentimes ended up focused on getting reviews out and getting fake internet points than writing my own stuff.” This is so true. In my case, at least, I already feel pressured to read certain ARCs and new books so I can get a review up ASAP. I’m not sure why—I’m not a book blogger. I used to write recommendations for books I enjoyed because I was bubbling over with excitement for them and had to talk to someone about them, STAT, whether they were new releases or old favorites. So why am I now focusing on reviewing instead of spending that time on my own writing?  Why am I making reading a job, instead of letting it be the relaxing learning experience I’ve always enjoyed?

I’ve come up with twice as many pros as cons, but the cons are probably three times as daunting. The second con is something I’ve felt immediately: earlier this year, I purposely cut back on the amount of unpaid blogging and writing I did on the side to make more room for my creative work, and yet I’m falling into the same traps of spreading my time too thin again. Being a regular book reviewer is a full-time job in and of itself, so not only is it taking whatever little creative writing time I have away from me, it’s also making reading a chore. Not good.

The first con is a much slower, creeping terror, one that causes a great deal of anxiety for me (and has in the past). Example: I used to know a writer who’s now successful. After we lost touch and (s)he got published, I read some of his/her work and wasn’t thrilled. I didn’t understand the hype. But instead of keeping that to myself, I went ahead and gave some low star ratings on Goodreads and a very short, but negative, review. I don’t know if (s)he ever saw my reviews, but I never heard from him/her again—even when I tried reaching out some time after.

This was dumb. This wasn’t just a person I could bump into in the future; it was someone I already knew, albeit not well. But we were never particularly close and hadn’t spoken in some time, so I figured “what’s the harm in being honest?”

Turns out, plenty. I was convinced that I screwed up royally and I still think I did. There’s no way to tell, without being completely tactless, if this author saw what I wrote. Sometime after I started to feel guilty about this, I wrote a post on my old blog both congratulating him/her on the success and apologizing for my review. There’s no way to know if that post was read, either, and I eventually decided to remove it because it felt too desperate and called attention to something I wanted forgotten.

I’ve yet to run into this author, but if I do, I have no doubt that it’ll be tense. Even if he or she never read my words, I know I’d feel incredibly paranoid—and that itself would make the meeting awkward. This is a situation I never want to encounter again. At best, I’m risking complete paranoia over something that may or may not have been read; at worst (and I say this knowing full well that I don’t have many blog readers, but it’s STILL a possibility), I’m insulting a future peer and potentially tarnishing my name with them, their literary agent, their publisher, and all the other people who put work into that book. Why put myself in that position when book blogging isn’t a major part of the career I’m working toward?

Since then, I’ve struggled with this royally. There have been a few works I’ve read by authors in my network that I didn’t enjoy, and since I hate being anything but 100% honest, I struggled when rating them on Goodreads and deciding whether or not to review or even rate them at all. Ultimately, I opted to avoid reviewing the books of anyone I know that I didn’t enjoy, because it just wasn’t worth the risks—not to mention hurting someone’s feelings.

So I think it’s obvious what conclusion I’ve come to. The internet is a public place and what you write can and will be found. Ultimately, I have to agree with author Kristen Lamb who, in her blog Three NEVERS of Social Media for Writers, put it pretty simply: “Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer’ Book reviewers have to be forthright to be taken seriously. This means some books will get shredded. This can undermine how our fellow writers feel about working with us as authors.”

Of course, this isn’t definitive and I’m sure some people can find a balance between the two. There are exceptions to this rule—after all, I’ve definitely seen Stephen King really rip apart a few books. But until we reach King Status, it’s probably wise to stick with the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” route. And, of course, this does not apply when you’re personally asked for an honest review or constructive criticism.

So, if you see my more negative reviews come down from Goodreads and my blog, you know why. I just don’t think it’s my place to continue sharing these—after all, as much as I fancy myself an analytical reader, I’ve yet to publish a novel of my own. So who am I to judge?

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I’m really curious to know what you think about this. If you’re an author of any kind—published, self-published, not published at all—how do you handle reviews? Are negative reviews off-limits, no matter how constructive and kind they are? Let me know!

 

Book Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

23569428Legacy of Kings
Eleanor Herman
2.5/5 Stars

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

I’m not too sure where to begin with my thoughts on Legacy of Kings. If you follow my blog or my reviews, you’ll know that I originally rated its prequel, Voice of Gods, a 4 before dropping it to a 3 just the other day. I made that change because reading LoK reminded me of all the things I took issue with in VoG—only in this one, they were amplified to the Nth degree.

Still, I enjoyed VoG, and I was really amped to read this one when I finished it. But LoK left me disappointed. To avoid getting too lengthy, I’m going to break down my main issues with this novel into a few short(ish) bullet points:

  • Convenience. The characters never truly have to work for anything; just as I mentioned in my review of VoG, there seems to be a deus ex machina for every problem.
  • Too many points of view. Disclaimer: I love GRRM’s writing, which has many more points of view than LoK, but his books are also more than twice as long as Herman’s and have more room for it. Reading this, I felt as if I didn’t spend enough time with the POV characters (of whom there were 7) to care much about them, which resulted in quotes like “her heart leaps to see him the way he used to be when the world was still good” not doing much for me. It’s one of those sentences that’s supposed to convey how much the characters have gone through since the novel’s events kicked off, but it genuinely doesn’t feel like much. Which brings me to…
  • Pacing. It took me about a good 2 weeks to read this book, and it’s really not that long. But I had a hard time getting through it because, quite frankly, my eyes would glaze over here and there. There were pacing issues on a much smaller scale, too, such as the fight scenes. One of the fun parts of this novel is all the action, but much of it is lost in long, rambling, matter-of-fact paragraphs that don’t do much to build up the tension.
  • Telling vs. showing. A lot of LoK is told rather than shown. I can’t tell if this is cause or effect of my lack of interest in the characters, but I couldn’t connect to their emotions at all when the narrator was just handing them to me. I think it’s a little of both.
  • Unoriginality. I realize this is harsh, and I’m a pretty firm believer in true originality being dead, but some characters, relationships, and plot points in this book seemed almost directly lifted out of other popular fantasy works like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. The similarities in the relationships between Kat/Jacob and Katniss/Gale are frustrating. I’m also pretty sure several Game of Thrones characters have cameos in this novel with little but their names changed.
  • Loose ends and plot holes. I’m tempted to write this off as the book being part of a yet-unfinished series—not all questions are answered just yet—but some of the narratives seem to just drop off rather than coming to a satisfactory cliffhanger or conclusion.

I was tempted to mark this one as DNF and move on, but I enjoyed VoG enough that I wanted to see how it all tied in.  Even now, dissatisfied as I am, I’m curious enough to know what happens to all the characters—and how all those loose ends will be tied up—that I may pick up the sequel when it comes out (though that’s a very strong “may”). That mild curiosity is enough to keep this book a 2.5-star read as opposed to a strict 2 or even 1.

As much as I wanted to put this down because I just don’t have time to read books I don’t fully enjoy, I was eager to have the opportunity to write a full, honest review for a book that didn’t quite work for me (and I really think that’s all it is; I know there are so many other people out there who love it). I used to be one of those people who rated everything 4 or 5 stars, but as I grow as a reader and a writer, I’m trying to take a more critical eye to stories and be a bit more honest in their star ratings. I also don’t think books that would have worked for me just 2 or 3 years ago would stand a chance now, which is something I realized after reading through and agreeing with all the one-star reviews of Fallen (a novel I rated 5 stars in 2012).

(Post-script, because I forgot to include a very big gripe of mine in the first draft of this review) – Herman also kept using odd words that yanked me out of the story to question their usage. I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks and Macedonians weren’t using “reconnaissance,” a 19th century French word that was used way too many times for any novel, let alone one set in this time period.

Did you read Legacy of Kings? What did you like about it? What didn’t work for you? I’m eager to hear others’ thoughts, because I know this was a highly-anticipated one!