What Do You Think About Book Reviews?

Leave a review, please review, why are my reviews disappearing, starred reviews. It seems every other author discussion lately has been about reviews. But do we ask the READERS what they think about them?

I also asked this in my FB group, because so many authors look at this one way without wondering how readers look at this. As an author, we know how important reviews are for visibility. We also know getting readers to review our work is like pulling teeth out of a lion’s mouth. But why is it so hard?

As an author, maybe it would help to understand what’s the disconnect between readers and leaving reviews. So here’s something easier than a review–a poll–where you can voice your opinion about voicing your opinion.

Owen & Makayla 3: Cover Reveal

Seventy-Two Hours Too Long--Buy Now

Cover Reveal! So, Valentine’s Day is not my favorite day. Even though I write love stories. Romance to me is not about being obligated to buy your loved one a card or chocolates (although those things are nice), it’s about how you feel and show your feelings to that loved one throughout the year for as long as you’re together, especially through the hard times.

So I feel like this reveal is apropos. “Seventy-Two Hours Too Long” follows Owen and Makayla as they make their relationship work through Owen’s impending trial. But Devon, silent yet annoying business partner, wants Owen locked away for good. With the trial date getting closer, will Devon pressure Owen into confessing? Can Owen and Makayla’s relationship survive the pressure? And what is Veronica doing here after all these years?

It’s love story at its core, but it’s love swirling in a dark and sinister cloud. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. *wink* AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW, RELEASE DATE 2/26/2019

Available for pre-order at most eBook retailers. Check back here if you don’t see your retailer today. Some take 72 hours (no pun intended!) to make available.

TV to Inspire: Shows I Watch

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine requested  that I send her a list of all the shows I watch. At the time, I was watching a show that she fell in love with (can’t remember what that show was?? Anyway), and I guess she thought I had interesting tastes in TV.

Well, I finally got around to creating this list. I pick my TV mostly by what I like in general: I’m a superhero nerd, I’m a writer, I love love stories, I love to laugh, and I like dramatic action. The TV shows I watch give me inspiration for some of my stories, motivation to work on my crafting projects, and some great new music for playlists (I Soundhound a lot while watching TV) among other things.

Here’s a good sampling of many of the shows I watch right now, categorized by my interests/likes. Some of these fall into duplicate categories, but I’ll only list them once. These are in no particular order.

Regularly Watching

Dramas (aka “Good Stories” or “Good Writing”)

  • Ozark
  • Manifest
  • How To Get Away With Murder
  • For the People
  • Succession
  • The Good Fight
  • The Bold Type
  • Queen Sugar –from the book Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile: This is here, and not in the TV from a Book section, because I fell in love with this show for the show itself. I didn’t read the book or have an appreciation for the book before I watched the show. Also, the cinematography is amazing (can’t get that in a book).
  • Black Love –Love what I have seen so far, just need to add it to my queue to keep watching.
  • Ballers
  • All-American

Action Shows/DIY shows (My “Weekend DIY Girl” side)

  • The Rookie
  • Blindspot
  • Legacies
  • This Old House
  • P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home
  • Growing a Greener World
  • For Your Home
  • Design on a Dime
  • Ask This Old House
  • Black Lightning (Honorable Mention– interest waning in season 2)

TV From Books (The “Nerd Bunch”)

  • Younger –from Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran
  • You –from You by Caroline Kepnes
  • The Flash –from the comic book series (DC)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale –from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Marvel’s Runaways –from the comic book series (Marvel)
  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones –from the comic book series (Marvel)
  • Marvel’s Luke Cage –from the comic book series (Marvel)
  • Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger –from the comic book series (Marvel)
  • The Gifted–from the X-Men and EXiles comic book series (Marvel)
  • Outlander –from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Supergirl –from the comic book series (DC)

TV from TV

  • Homeland –from Israeli drama series Prisoners of War (2009)
  • Charmed (2018) –from Charmed (1998)

Guilty Pleasures (aka “The Ratchet (the correct word is Wretched!) Bunch”)

  • The Real Housewives of Atlanta
  • The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
  • Vanderpump Rules
  • UnReal
  • Empire
  • Star
  • Claws

When I Need a Laugh

  • Grown-ish (Black-ish gets an Honorable Mention. I’m not really a regular watcher)
  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Insecure

Reruns I Keep Re-running

  • Star Trek: TNG
  • Star Trek: Voyager
  • Star Trek: DS9
  • Scandal
  • House
  • Living Single

Sporadically Watching/TBW

Upcoming Shows/Shows on my “To Watch” List

(They interest me, but I have yet to really dive in and put them as my favs.)

  • Game of Thrones–This is kind of like The Sopranos for me (see below). I missed the initial hype, and it’s almost slipping away (last season). It looks like it might be my kind of thing, but I don’t know. The 1st book is in my TBR pile as well.
  • Black Mirror
  • Atlanta
  • Harlots
  • Pose— Only 2 episodes in so far
  • Bosch
  • Killing Eve
  • Good Girls
  • Dietland–I’m trying here, for my sisters (the BBW club)
  • Good Trouble–new series
  • Star Trek Discovery –on principle, I don’t like what CBS is doing with its All-Access platform, and this show had issues in production, but I am a Trekkie, so I have to check it out. Plus, it got a Season 2, so…
  • A Million Little Things –see “This is Us” (below). Trying to get past the 1st ep. crying spell.
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Also, I thought these two categories would be pretty cool:

Shows that a lot of people like, that I don’t/didn’t watch (& why)*

  • Stranger Things* — Aliens? meh. Trying to get convinced to add it to my queue, but I haven’t yet, so it stays here.
  • TrueBlood — The books are so much better and richer when it comes to story. HBO went overboard on the shock value and forgot the story. Also, one of the fun Easter Egg/tropes in the books couldn’t be repeated on screen because of fan response.
  • This is Us* — Watched 3 episodes, cried uncontrollably, can’t go back.
  • Grey’s Anatomy* — Got invested too late, couldn’t stay invested.
  • The Walking Dead* — I don’t do zombies. I don’t do much horror. (“Legacies” is hanging on by a thread with their latest episodes)
  • The Sopranos — Missed the hype. Not sure I want to go back now that it’s over.
  • Being Mary Jane (Is this one over?)* — ditto Sopranos
  • The Haves and Have-Nots* — Too soap-opera-y for me. Plus, I never got invested.

*still running as of Jan 2019

Shows that I wish weren’t canceled/that created a “ShowHole” even though they ran their course

  • Mistresses –from the BBC series Mistresses (2008): It was going off the rails, but the fact that it’s gone created a summer “showhole” for me. If they had kept the show in LA where Alyssa Milano could stay on, this might still be running.
  • Devious Maids –Created a fun-bingewatch “showhole” in the summer for me, but it was starting to lose it.
  • Sleepy Hollow –I wish this wasn’t canceled, but I totally agree with why. Google all the controversy about it. I’m totally with fellow fans on this one.
  • Fringe — Went off the rails, but I still miss it!
  • The Originals –obviously a vampire show can only go for so long, but I miss this one! Legacies can’t fill this showhole.
  • Reign –the CW didn’t really give this one a chance (same with The Coven–Although, I’m glad most of those actors got other roles in some great CW shows.)
  • Gossip Girl –I miss the drama and love-relationship aspects. And Ed Westwick. But if there was a good adult version of this, I wouldn’t mind–The show itself ran its course. (same for One Tree Hill and The O.C.)
  • The Client ListClaws fills this showhole nicely, but I do wish I knew what happened! I need closure!
  • Girlfriends –I still need closure.

What are some of your favorite shows? What more should I be watching?

Note: This is one person’s ginormously uncontrollable TV habit. It is by no means indicative of anyone sane.  Seriously though, I was not paid to mention, endorse (or disparage) any specific TV show, network, or TV streaming service. This is merely my opinion about TV shows and commentary on my personal choices.


#MyTinderSeries, a blog about…love?

Recently, it has been made painfully obvious to me that I am a hypocrite. (This might have been a self-revelation, but still.) I read about love–I always have at least 1 romance or WF with romantic elements in my “currently reading” list on Goodreads. I write about love–my first published story was a romance. And I love writing about love: people finding love, people falling in love, people messing up in love. It’s my thing. But I am not in love, at least not right now. (My infatuation with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doesn’t count, I’m told.) Hasn’t been a priority on my agenda, either. I was told that had to change.

So, I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts about my experience on Tinder, the sort-of newest hot dating app, and everything surrounding this little venture.  Um, sorry no X- ( or even R-rated) stuff here, folks. No name dropping, either–unless I’m given permission. But there will probably be a lot of blunders, a few frustrations, some straight up comedy, and maybe, dare I say…love? Who knows. But it’s sure to be fun. Join me!

Thank you, Toni Morrison

As a writer, at this point, I’m a nobody.

Even though, I have been writing for fun since I was twelve, I didn’t believe that what I was writing, who I was as a writer, even my place in American society as a Black female speaking on behalf of Black females would resonate anywhere.

Then I read Sula. And I realized that my place in society as a Black female was an indomitable one. A revered (even if secretly) one. One where I make no apologies for who I am and give no regard to who you think I am.

This is who I was meant to be.

I was unsure whether my stories could see the light of day or even be appreciated in this society where I had recently found my place. Who wanted to see the poetry of black life?

Then I read Song of Solomon. And I realized…who wouldn’t want to? It was more beauty and more real emotion than I thought possible.

This is how I wanted to write.

I was disbelieving than any Black woman could make a dent in writing notoriety. That even if I did become a novelist, who could crack into that white male pantheon of classical and celebrated literature?

Then Toni Morrison won the Nobel.

So, I echo the sentiments of a lot of us–nobodies and not–who are inspired by you, who are celebrated just because we dared to walk in your footprints, and who still believe the dream that you made a reality.

Thank you, Mrs. Morrison.

Featured Image Photo credit: Toni Morrison, 1970. Photo by Bert Andrews. Photo accessed from “Our Professor: A Toni Morrison Memory” https://dukeupress.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/our-professor-a-toni-morrison-memory/ Duke University Press

Friday Fun Review: “Her Russian Billionaire” by Theodora Taylor

I finished this book a week ago, and up until now, I didn’t realize how I would structure this review for the best impact. But now I think I’ve figured it out. I thought it best to talk about just this book, and then about the author in general. While this is not the best written book (3 stars), the author’s hustle, and dedication to supplying her fanbase with what they want is noteworthy. As an author, I give her 4 stars.

(Added disclaimer:) The trick is to figuring out if you’re in her fanbase. This is probably a good representation of a lot of the erotic romances she writes. Her alphas are aggressive, almost brutal to a point, and as she says…ruthless. The heroines have some issues, but are more unique than any I’ve seen so far in erotic romance novels.

So this will be a way-left different review than what I usually do. Different set up and maybe even different tone/language. You can read the premise, get a feel for the characters, and all that prelim stuff in the sample and book blurb. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

About the book, Her Russian Billionaire:

Heat Level: High. (This is steamy, erotic, and sexy)

Taylor’s motto is that she writes “hot books with heart” and that’s what this is. The heart comes in the form of story. So while there’s a lot of graphic sexy times for you to see, there’s also a story, characters arcs, backstory, something to hold on to. Some of the earlier (and maybe still) self-pubbed romances came off as straight porn because, let’s face it, you could write whatever you wanted (not as much anymore, but you get my drift). This woman is a writer, not a porno creator.

Am I impressed by the writing? Not so much. There are some grammar issues and some craft issues with the POV. The dual POV rehashes some scenes during first transitions. For instance, the first few pages of another POV have the exact same plot points, so it reads as if we are repeating what we just read instead of getting another perspective. And in the middle of the novel, we get a repeat of the prologue. Again, this is from a different POV, and there’s a point to it, but we could use a little less rehash to understand the points to be made.

But does this writing criticism matter? For the most part–NO. Here’s why.

  1. I’m late to the game on Theodora Taylor. This novel was written in 2012 at near the beginning of her career. All of us are still learning with that first or second book. You can already tell from her FIVE-CHAPTER SAMPLE of Her Russian Beast at the end of the Kindle edition of Her Russian Billionaire that she’d already improved on the writing issues I saw. If you’re new to her work like I was, stick with her. It will pay off.
  2. Most people are not writers. I’m a writer and English professor, and I read like one sometimes, even when I just want to be entertained. So most of these “writer things” people do not notice, or if they do, they read over it because the story is good. So instead, review what I have to say about this author.

About the author:

As an indie author, I have so much respect for any indie author that can put 1 book out–let alone over 30, to garner a following in a genre that’s so vast and has so much competition, and gain an expanding following while doing so. Taylor has earned every bit of good for what she’s put out there. And most of her recognition started from garnering a word-of-mouth following. She’s done so well at it, that she got on Harlequin’s radar and she’s penned two books with them.

But her indie books are her crowning glory. They are full of steamy goodness and compelling story. She’s one of the many indie authors dispelling the continual stigma that the indie is somehow a “lower caliber” book than one traditionally published. Taylor delivers an entertaining book and on her motto of providing her audience with “hot books with heart.”

Last day! Free downloads of the Owen and Makayla Trilogy

Today is the last day to get all 3 volumes of the Owen and Makayla Trilogy for FREE on Smashwords!

What’s the Owen and Makayla Trilogy about? Check out the video below.

Friday Fun Review: “Dating You/Hating You”

I promise this will be the last of the Christina Lauren books for a while! The next Friday Fun Review will be from an indie author (like me!)

Dating You / Hating YouDating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following my Friday Fun Reviews on my site (or my reviews on GR for the last 2 months), you’ll know that I had Dating You / Hating You on my TBR list for 2 YEARS. It took me picking up My Favorite Half-Night Stand by coincidence to jumpstart my voracious consumption of everything Christina Lauren (writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings). Still so glad it happened!

In true CL fashion, this is a hilarious romcom with an amazing couple (both written as gorgeous) and a bunch of New Adult drama. It reminds me of the Netflix romcom “Set It Up” in parts, except Carter and Evie are the agents (execs), not assistants. However, this one also has a serious undercurrent.

Again, I’ll let them do the premise. [from Bookbub] “Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge–causing the pair to vie for the same position–all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals–so why can’t they act like it?”

Along with their antics is a boss that has problems with powerful women–and more than a few secrets, Carter’s family, including an artist brother that’s right out of an “Uncensored” episode on TV One, and a host of friends and assistants that provide substantial amounts of hilarity.

Just like in MFH-NS, these characters are so relate-able. This is a dual 1st person POV Carter/Evie, but their friends and family will steal the show. All have the memorable personalities of a CL ensemble cast, and as a writer, I’m in awe of how they put them all together without getting them mixed up and giving each a unique voice. It begs for a movie so you can see these characters in action (or just get more of them.)

The story/The sex/The reviews
What steals the show romcom-wise is their “war” on each other and the “shots they fire” in a specific series of slapstick moments (trying not to create spoilers here.) Some thought it was over-the-top; I thought it was awesome!

Also notable is the lack of sex in this one. Having just read Beautiful Bastard where there was not much more than sex, I found DY/HY refreshing. However, if you are reading this hoping for the same amount of sex that you usually get in a CL novel (a la the Beautiful series), then you may be disappointed. I wasn’t. The story was so engaging and fun that I enjoyed it and didn’t notice the lack of sex in every other chapter. Sometimes, you just need a break!

Another difference is the hint of serious social discussion on female inequality at work. These agents are pitted against each other by a boss who’s obviously from the 60s. Don Draper has nothing on this dude. Some reviewers were turned off by Evie’s treatment in the office, and the inequalities of women in this story. While I am too, I also understand how REAL this is in an office. On top of that, these are Hollywood agents, so EVERYTHING is ramped up 100x more than in a regular office. If this scenario angers you, don’t blame CL, blame these male execs and companies who are shortchanging women! CL portrayed this in a real and eye-opening way. It should make you mad enough for action against the oppressive system, not CL for showing it.

This is a great story. It’s very much on the Women’s Fiction/chick-lit side of CL’s romance spectrum but still has a great couple dynamic. I haven’t thought about a movie cast for this one, but it could do well as a Netflix Romcom.

If you’ve read this one, what do you think about the movie cast? Comment below.

View all my reviews

Everything’s Free on Smashwords! (until 7/31/19)

This month is the Smashwords Winter/Summer Sale. So for the first time, ALL of the Owen & Makayla Trilogy is FREE.

Get the volumes you’ve been missing today!

Friday Fun Review…filled with Controversy?

Review of Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
About the review (background on why I said what I said)

I didn’t go into this in the review, because it’s been SO LONG since the Twilight phenom, the fan fiction craze that followed and the subsequent Fifty Shades of Gray craze that followed that most people know what happened, how they feel, etc. And with the original version of Beautiful Bastard garnering more than 2 million reads online during that time, I’m sure most people that read Beautiful Bastard have their views on its place in all of this.

I’m not the audience for Twilight. The only part of the Twilight audience that I would identify with is that I love love stories. So, I knew next to nothing about the vampire series until the movies were released. I always like to read a book first before I go see its film adaptation, and I knew then that this wasn’t for me. As a reader, it had some key problems that I couldn’t get around. When FSOG was gifted to me, I thought okay, maybe an adult version would be more suited for me. It was not.

While Beautiful Bastard was an okay book, I appreciate what it spawned: a collection of wonderfully done titles since by Christina Lauren. And part of that collection is what I read first. I especially loved My Favorite Half-Night Stand (see review). I guess that’s why I was glad to discover Beautiful Bastard as I did: years after Twilight and FSOG, without knowing it was fanfic beforehand, and after reading other books that prove how great these ladies are at creating a contemporary romcom.

As a writer, you go through constant rejection and criticism just to get your book out there, and if you do manage to publish, you’re hit with mediocre sales, having to self-market (even if you are traditionally published), a field flooded with supply (so much competition most can’t even be recognized), being rejected for awards, 1-star reviews, no reviews, and predatory Amazon algorhithms.  It’s hard not to hate the author when they get the sales and recognition and deals, that “something better” or “something more original” should have gotten. But it’s really the luck of the draw for most authors that don’t have celebrity status. Tweens and teens loved Twilight. I don’t really know why. Their moms wanted an adult version, and a few decided to write one. Out comes Beautiful Bastard and Fifty Shades of Gray. How did FSOG get more up-front attention and a quicker movie deal than BB? One will never know. This is the lucky part.

So if you haven’t heard of CL’s Beautiful series, but have definite negative feelings toward Twilight, put your judgement aside for a moment to give this series a try. Even if you don’t read the first book (which is the only one in the series that’s really Twilight fanfic).

Readers: what did you think about all of this Twilight “controversy”? What do you think about fan fiction in general? COMMENT BELOW

What I had to say (Back in the day)

My Blog Post about Twilight

My blog Post about Fan Fiction (and indirectly FSOG)

My Goodreads Review of Beautiful Bastard (2019)

Beautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard, #1)Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I’m LIGHT-YEARS behind the gossip about/reviews of/hype about this book. If you’re new to this book (I’m not going to say series, because I think this book stands alone in the series as twi-hard fanfic), and you’ve read Twilight (T) or 50 shades of gray (FSOG), and you’re thinking…. hmm familiar…. check out these 2 articles from EW to give you some background:
Book deal announcement and background–read first
Cover reveal and background

So this review is going to be a little different than what I usually do.

About Me (I swear it will be short!)–Feelings about, T, FSOG, fanfic, why am I reading this?
1) I did not like T or FSOG for various reasons. I 1-starred both of them here. 2) I don’t like “fan fiction.” There’s “inspired by” (we as writers are always inspired by someone or something), which is an original story created from a specific unoriginal idea/concept, and then there’s “fan fiction” which is basically a book remix. Except in the publishing world (unlike the music world), original authors don’t get royalties from fan fiction. And in the case of FSOG, the original author didn’t even get recognized and the whole situation tried to get downplayed. 3) So why read this? Long story short, I picked up Beautiful Stranger in the library, loved that book, realized there was a BB1 and picked it up.

About the Book itself
There’s a lot of sex here. A lot. And a lot of panty-ripping. And a lot of smirking. And a lot of “I hate you. Let’s have sex.” But not much actual story, and the character arcs are kind of shallow. It’s pretty exhausting by the end, to be honest. I don’t really like Bennett Ryan (now, I know why), and something about Chloe is kind of off, too. I kind of wanted to ask her a couple of times, “Is he sexually harassing you?” because the level of hatred between them seemed to be animosity-level at times instead of heated lustful back-and-forth. Also, I’ve worked in an office most of my life, and no one can keep THIS level of crazy under wraps like they “seem” to be doing here. But aside from all that, this is well-written (aside from the smirking) and a page turner, which makes it entertaining.

So if you’ve got all that negativity, why even give it 3 stars?/Comparison to T and FSOG
For these reasons:
1) The writing–as a first Adult novel–is well done. These ladies can put sentences together correctly, they know how to effectively create POV and voice, they understand vocabulary, and compared to T, this has much better writing. (FSOG doesn’t even rate as far as writing is concerned.)
2) They made an entertaining story out of some boring YA. T was wildly popular, even before the movies came out. I don’t know why. But it was. So, of course the T phenomenon once we saw Bella and Edward on screen would lead to this  “we-want-more-so-let’s-create-it-ourselves-for-ourselves (adults)” fanfic craze. Christina Lauren did a decent job making a story with the T characters and concepts, and it didn’t bore us or make us want to projectile vomit. That’s a win.
3) Chloe–while not great– is better than Bella. Chloe knows she’s good at what she does, she knows she’s got great taste (even if she has more hookups than cash), and she obviously loves herself. Everyone loves Bella, except Bella. Notice that? Not a good role model for a young girl, but for an adult reading T, it’s just a turn-off. Here, I can stomach Chloe.
4) What has come after from Christina Lauren has been a treat so far! Unlike T and FSOG, part 2 of this series was a delight to read. And other adult books CL has written since then that I’ve read have been true pleasures. So if it took a little meh fanfic to get them on the Adult map (they were already bloggers and YA authors before this) and get them to the wonderful books they’re writing now, I’m all for it!

Aside from the Book/Reviews/Overall:
It’s not T or FSOG, and that’s a good thing, because those suck. And while I am not a fan of fanfiction, I love how Christina Lauren own up to the fact that this was Twilight fanfic. After all, that’s how it garnered its interest! Unlike FSOG’s author: E L James on Wendy Williams Show 2019 downplaying and avoiding the subject. Beautiful Bastard does have its negatives, but considering how I feel about T, I know that I have a predilection to be biased against it. I’m not going to let that blind me to some of the positives in this book.
Some have some pretty strong negative reviews about this one. At the time (with no other CL adult books out there and 2 versions of THIS book floating around–one the rework and one the fanfic original), I might have been that way, too. But I see a bigger picture that makes me view this one so-so story in a better light than I might have otherwise. Overall, it’s an okay first effort, but since I know these get better, I’m sticking with the series.

View all my reviews
Readers: what did you think about all of this Twilight “controversy”? What do you think about fan fiction in general? COMMENT BELOW