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Friday, January 4, 2013

Reading Out of My Comfort Zone

         Here are my reviews of three books that I've read over the past year.  These books were all sent to me for the purpose of reviewing them and I gave them my honest assessment.  Review and book titles are links that will take you to my original reviews and provide you with more information about the books

Yippee ki yay ki yo ho-ho-ho! Cowboy Christmas

Darn Good Cowboy Christmas (Spikes & Spurs, #3)Darn Good Cowboy Christmas (Spikes & Spurs)

by Carolyn Brown

It's a well written bit of fluff with a neatly woven story and well drawn characters. This could easily be a Hallmark Christmas television special if the sex scenes were removed. It's sentimentally romantic, but after all it's a romance novel. And that's my biggest problem with it I guess. I'm not really a romance fan. But if this is the genre I'm going to read, then this book is how I'd like to have it packaged. A DARN GOOD COWBOY CHRISTMAS is a pleasant enough diversion for holiday reading. I would highly recommend this to any readers of the romance genre.

A Salacious Love Triangle

The Salacious Marny OttwilerThe Salacious Marny Ottwiler

by Bridget Straub

When I read out of my genre it can be an uncomfortable experience. This book is not in a genre that I typically read and therefore I can't say I was overjoyed by it. But I didn't hate it either. And I did read it right to the end, which I think is a big plus.

This is not my kind of story and I neither could relate to the characters nor did I particularly like them. But that's just me. I can see where this book would have an audience that would eat it up like a box of Godiva chocolates washed down with a goblet of Grand Marnier.

What I liked best about this book is the humor. Bridget Straub has a clever witty style that is topical and fun. I like the author's writing style. I love the short (and I mean very short) chapters that allow the reader to tear through the book. It's a quick read with a fast pace.

I won't recommend "Marny" for those who can't tolerate the genre, but those who enjoy romantic comedy or books about the world of the celebrity might want to give it a try. You might be in a better position to evaluate the book from your reading experience. I'd like to hear what you think of "Marny Ottwiler".

Is This a Peculiar Review?

The PeculiarThe Peculiar

by Stefan Bachmann

If THE PECULIAR is an indication of things to come for young author Stefan Bachmann, he's got a tremendous career ahead of him. This young man can really write and this book is among the most well-written books I've read this year.

That being said, I have mixed feelings about this book. This is the first fantasy novel I recall having read. It's also probably the first steam-punk novel I've read. Yes, it's a melding of the two genres and it's expertly done.

The world of THE PECULIAR is vividly created. I loved that aspect. Gritty detail and convincing geographic placement of the settings made it easy to visualize what I was reading.

The characters were well-crafted and interesting, but here's where I had my problem. The real people were okay, but the fairies, goblins, gnomes, and other fantasy creatures were a bit too much for me to suspend my disbelief for. This nagged at me throughout my reading of the book. As I continued to read, I gradually became more adapted to the concept of the imaginary types, but I didn't like them.

The story is gripping, but very dark. I might question this reading for the 9 to 14 year old crowd and beyond those ages readers may have some of the same problems that I did.

I took little of value with me as I left this novel other than the appreciation for the fine writing craftsmanship. The book is not bad, but it is not my favorite. For those who love the fantasy genre, I would highly highly recommend that they give this one a try. Steam-punk aficionados will probably likewise have a tremendous appreciation for the book. As for me, I look forward to seeing what Bachmann comes up with next. He is an author to keep an eye on.

My Questions for You:

        1.  Have I done this fairly?

        2.  Considering that less stars will bring the book down a notch in ratings, is it fair that I would rate books like this because I'm not a fan of the genre?

         3.  Should a person who does not like a genre review a book so long as they have stated such and also reviewed the book according to its merits?


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  1. I think you were fair, but that last question has merit. Nothing drives me crazier than a movie critic reviewing a movie in a genre he doesn't like and then, big surprise, he doesn't like it.
    I've read some books lately outside of my favorite genres and each one probably lost a star because of that. (One was from Talli Roland - my first chick-lit - and I still gave it four stars.)

  2. I think if you've disclosed to the person requesting the review that the book is not in your preferred genre, and the author wants you to read and review it anyway, then anything is fair. The author, by making the request, has accepted the consequences.
    Now, if you're just out looking for books that you're pretty sure you won't like... well, that would just be mean.

  3. I think you were fair. You pointed out your perspective from the beginning then point out things you liked and didn't like.

    As for ratings, I don't know. Both Alex and Andrew make good points.

  4. I don't write a lot of reviews but when I do it's usually in a genre I enjoy reading. I think I'd have a hard time writing reviews when I know ahead of time I'm probably not going to enjoy that kind of book. That being said, I think as a writer it's good to read outside our preferred genres once in a while. As far as the ratings, I can understand Alex's frustration with people that give low ratings when they typically don't like that genre. I think it all comes down to being honest and fair in your reviews and I think you did just that.

  5. Hi Lee,
    Its nice to be here again after a bit gap, nice to note the new developments at this place and at A to Z Pages.
    Thanks for this wonderful reviews too. Keep up the good work
    Keep inform
    Best Regards

  6. I think the book covers make a lot of difference in boosting the sales.

  7. I think your reviews were fair. Now, as to whether it was wise to ask you to review these books knowing you don't particularly care for those genres - that is another question. I suppose they may have thought their book was good enough to "turn" you. But that's a risk they took.

  8. Personally I love these reviews especially because of the thought of you reading books like the first one that are a little different. To me The Peculiar actually sounds seriously awesome and far more different and gripping than the others with all due respect and I really want to check it out, it seems like it would be worth the effort of getting it and reading it despite the minor character flaws and belief suspending.

  9. As long as you declare your bias, Lee, I think it's fair.

    I'm going to publish a bunch of reviews this month, and have decided to follow a format where my bias is visible upfront.

  10. Alex - I think it's wrong to bash something strictly on the basis of personal preference. The good must be acknowledged if it is there and I can always find something good.

    Andrew - I fully disclosed my intent to Bridget Straub and she accepted what I was going to do so as to get more reviews. Bridget is a blogger for whom I have great respect. For the other two, the books were sent to me as "prizes" and I did not know these authors, but I hope they would appreciate my reviews.

    Southpaw -- At least the variance in ratings gives a more realistic perspective of the reviews. All great reviews can appear suspicious.

    Elise -- I would never say that there are genres that don't have books with some merit. I don't know until I read them. I have read some other romance that I have quite liked. And I would give fantasy another chance if the story sounded good enough. I do let authors know where I'm coming from before accepting the task of reviewing their work.

    Phil -- Good to hear from you.

    Haddock -- They say you can't judge a book by it's cover, but packaging can make a lot of difference. I really like the cover of The Peculiar.

    Sheila -- As I stated above, two of the books were something I "won" and the authors not only did not know I would be reviewing them, but they probably had no idea about my preferences.

    Yeamie-- I think you would enjoy The Peculiar. I think it is more geared toward a young adult crowd and not an old codger like me.

    Damyanti -- I think a fair review must have a stated bias, especially if the review is somewhat negative.


  11. I shamelessly confess I have not read this post, I'm just stopping by to say Happy New Year! :) Here's to more great books to read in 2013!

  12. Bachmann is an amazing young writer! My understanding is that his second book is with his editor now, so lots to look forward to in the coming months.

  13. I agree with one of your comments, Lee. I don't bash a book if I don't like it. I review a book on the basis of its merits. If it's well written, if the characters are well rounded, whether "real" or "fantastic," if the plot is good and moves forward logically, then I say Very Well Done. I don't really think you have to say whether or not you like the genre. Good writing is just that -- good writing. That's my humble opinion :)

  14. I read a little bit of everything. But even if you don't read a genre, you can judge the writing itself. Not maybe the concept??? I don't know. It's something to think about.

  15. I have to admit, if I'm bored with a book,I think my bias would not do the work justice. I want good writing and I want substantive story and characters. Certain genres aren't aimed at all of those requirements. Reviewing is never an objective exercise and my lack luster experience is bound to show, much like Arlee's did in his romance reviews.


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