How To Survive Reading A Romance Novel With An Unwanted Ending #SundayBlogShare #BookWorms


Bad endings in books can leave you feeling cheated and cross.

I can just about cope with weak endings in other book genres, however if I am given a romance novel with an unwanted ending I will struggle….emotionally….for days after it’s finished. 

When I read a romance novel I want:

  • Chemistry between the two characters.
  • A bit of romantic conflict.
  • A happy ever after ending.
  • Epilogue explaining how the couple are doing a year down the line.

In my view the following are unwanted endings:

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If an Online Dating Site For Writers Existed… #WritersLife #Writers


Photo Credit: StockSnap.

Have you ever found yourself wondering how an online dating site for writers could work? Don’t worry – I got this topic covered!

I think an online dating site for writers is a great idea. Luckily for me, my loved one has not yet traded me in for a younger model, grown tired of my emotional breakdowns, creative tantrums, hormonal fluctuations, frequent use of a shrill voice and my inability to reduce the ironing pile to a more manageable level. However, that doesn’t stop my mind from thinking through this gem of a business idea!

I am sure writers would want to date other writers. Can you imagine dating someone who understands your editing pain, lets you off the housework when you need to focus on your first chapter and gives you constructive literary criticism during pillow talk?  I know…it sounds like the making of relationship bliss!

An online dating site for writers probably exists somewhere in the world, but here is how I think an online dating site for writers could work:

Continue reading

How To Show Your Appreciation To An Author #SundayBlogShare #authors #books

How To Show Your Appreciation To An Author-2

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
― William Styron, Conversations with William Styron

Ever read a great book and wondered how to say thanks to the author for producing such a wonderful story?

Here are 23 ways:

  1. Tweet your appreciation.
  2. Post your appreciation on Facebook.
  3. Take a photo of the cover and stick on Instagram.
  4. Write the author a letter.
  5. Email the author.
  6. Write a blog post about the author.
  7. Leave a message of thanks on the Author’s Facebook page.
  8. Send the author a #tweethug.
  9. Film yourself saying thanks to the author and stick video clip on social media. (I have been wanting to do this for ages. I do hope my future readers do this about my books. Love video clips!)
  10. Recommend the book to your friends.
  11. Suggest that your local book club reads the book.
  12. Post a link to the book on one of your ‘Read & Recommend’ Facebook Groups.
  13. Pin the book on Pinterest.
  14. Post it on Tumblr.
  15. Leave a message for the author via their website.
  16. Sign up to your author’s newsletter.
  17. Write a book review and stick on blog.
  18. Write a review on Goodreads.
  19. Promote via your social media tribe.
  20. Promote via your blogging tribe.
  21. Leave a review on Amazon or Kobo.
  22. Encourage your writer friends to read it. We all love good books.
  23. Shout about it!

Writing a book is tough. Trust me – it takes blood, sweat and many tears!

If you have read a book that has moved you or taken you on a wonderful journey, please say thanks to the author.

One little message of thanks can make an author’s day. I know this because I am a Wattpad author and the messages of thanks put a smile on my face and give me a warm fuzzy glow. Life is all about those warm fuzzy glows!

Have a wonderful day!

Psst..this week my new fictional comedy podcast ‘The Diary of Roxy Collins’ will be launching. Stand by folks. I might have to throw a virtual launch party.

Photo: Snapshot


The Signs of a Plot Twist Thrill Seeker #Books #BookWorms #Readers



Are you a Plot Twist Thrill Seeker? 

Do you crave the rush of excitement and adrenalin from a good plot twist?

Do you regard yourself as a wild and crazy reader?

Check out the signs below and see whether you are a Plot Twist Thrill Seeker:

  1. You are a literary thrill seeker. Books give you your kicks! When you are not craving plot twists you are doing other crazy literary stuff like having two books on the go or  buying books that are not from your preferred reading genre. Sigh!
  2. You trawl through book reviews searching for phrases like ‘WOW what a plot twist!’ and ‘OMG I never saw that twist coming!’  Once spotted you hunt down, purchase and read!
  3. Whilst reading a book you can be heard muttering things like ‘come on and twist me baby!’ and ‘I haven’t experienced a good twist in weeks!’ Sigh!
  4. Reading enjoyment for you comes from trying to work out what the plot twist will be.
  5. Sometimes your literary pleasure is dampened as you spend all your time searching for what you believe to be foreshadowing and characters behaving oddly.
  6. You have respect for the few authors who have caught you off guard.
  7. You struggle to control your literary frustration if the plot twist was a.) not there b.) not executed cleverly c.) just weak!  One of your pet hates in life is poorly constructed plot twists.
  8. You crave that glorious moment where the plot becomes apparent and as C.A Higgins says on the blog ‘you see the events through two different lenses – the lens of what you’ve assumed is happening, and the lens of what you know is happening – and all the subtle clues and contrasts between the two become visible’.  This to you is magic!
  9. Your book reviews focus heavily on how you felt post the plot twist.
  10. You need a regular plot twist fix. If you don’t get your regular dose of literary thrill seeking you can get a bit moody.


Have a fabulous day!

Photo: Upsplash.

How to Manage Your To Be Read Book Pile #bookaddict #bookworm #TBR



Things can get stressful when your To Be Read (TBR) book pile starts to block out the light from the window or makes your electronic reader start to smoke. This can lead to what we in the trade call TBR Book Pile Stress. 

TBR Book Pile Stress can cause all sorts of issues:

  • You start to question your commitment to books.
  • You start to question whether you should still have the self-proclaimed title of ‘prolific reader’
  • You get a bit twitchy around your TBR book pile or even discussing it with a fellow reader.
  • At night the books in your TBR book pile dance in your dreams, slowly torturing you.
  • You find yourself announcing to your family that there is no way you can have a shared room in a future nursing home. You can only see your TBR book pile increasing in size as you age. This makes your loved ones roll their eyes at you and mutter under their breath – bang goes their cost saving initiative!

So, it is important to learn how to manage your TBR book pile when things get out of hand.

  1. Make an effort not to buy anymore books until there has been a significant reduction in the TBR book pile. This is easier said than done. I can only suggest walking around town in a straight jacket or never going on Amazon again.
  2. Have an honest talk with yourself and remove the books you are not going to read. We all have those books in our TBR book piles which we will probably never read as they were bought either in a book buying frenzy or to simply show off to other readers. They will either gather dust in our TBR book pile or you won’t enjoy them as they are out of your intellectual league. Check out my post on what to do when the book you are reading is beyond you. Giving these books to a second-hand book store means they might get enjoyed by someone in the future.
  3. Read multiple books. Fast and effective although this can play havoc with those of us liable to have fictional character crushes. Can you imagine having two emotionally draining and heart racing literary crushes at once?
  4. Place book or electronic reader in your handbag and whip it out when you have a quiet moment. You will be amazed at how much you can get through when waiting for a train or bus. I also find this method is good for a planned ‘storm out of the house in a huff’ moment leaving your loved one to look after the kids or pets. Just storm off, no real reason needed, just huff, puff, grab bag, slam door, go sit on a park bench and read. Sigh!
  5. Split TBR book pile into two groups  titled ‘should read’ and ‘OMG must read now!’

If these handy tips don’t work do the following:

  • Accept that you will always have a growing TBR book pile. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is accept stuff and stop fighting it.
  • Be grateful you are not in the ‘alive but with no TBR book pile’ camp. Can you imagine how dull life must be?
  • Buy more books and create a ‘TBR’ bookcase! Huzzah!

Happy reading!

Just raising my glass to my future nursing home – must tell family I will need gigantic bookcase and Wi-Fi! Sigh!

Photo: Pixabay

Author Interviews @dmassenzio #authors #writers

Author Interviews

Welcome to my weekly series – Author Interviews. 

Each week I find out about the person by the book and glean some valuable insight into being a writer.

I am thrilled to have author and blogger Don Massenzio sat in my chair. I have added Don’s books to my reading list and I love Don’s blog. If you want to learn more about the craft of writing it is well worth a browse.

Don, welcome and please have a seat in my red interview chair. 

Tell me about yourself and the book / books you have written?

Well, I have a 50-60 hour per week day job that has me traveling 45 hours per week. Instead of filling the time with dining out, socializing, or sleeping, I write. I am just getting ready to release my 6th non-fiction book. Four of them are part of a private detective series and one is a terrorism thriller.

When did you write your first book?

This is a tricky question. I’ve probably written, or started writing, many books over my life. I first had the guts to publish a book about two years ago.

How long did it take to write your first book?

The flippant answer is 50 years. The actual answer is about 10 months. I started by posting chapters in Scribophile and, based on the critiques received, I finished the book in April 2014.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I’m in the autumn of my day job career. I know that when I retire in about ten years, I will need something to keep me busy and, hopefully, bring in some income. I thought that it better be something that I enjoy. I love music and writing as hobbies. Writing is easier. I don’t have to carry equipment everywhere to do it. Plus, I have a young daughter that loves to read and she wants to write as well. I’m trying to set a good example.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

Just having the time was one obstacle. The other was having the self-confidence to put my writing out there. As an indie author, there is no gatekeeper or middleman. You go right to your readers and hope for the best. I have learned the value of beta readers and issuing advance reader copies since then, but the first book just was thrown over the wall. Luckily the reviews were positive.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

My detective novels just flow naturally. The characters are fun to write for and I look forward to the times when I get to write. The terrorism thriller, however, took a lot of research. As I was researching the effects of radioactivity and the characteristics of dirty bombs, I expected black SUVs to pull up in front of my house.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

This is an interesting question. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t outline my novels verbally, I do it pictorially. I borrow techniques from my day job as a consultant and create what I refer to as a ‘mind map’. I start with the name of the novel in a cloud in the center of a picture and then draw squares each containing a major event in the book. Then I put them in some form of order and move them to index cards in Scrivener. It’s a hybrid of verbal and visual methods.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The writing. I would say the positive reactions, but I think I would continue to write even if I had fewer readers. I love to read and writing is the logical next step. I love the idea of imagining what worlds and characters look like when I read someone else’s work, but it’s even better to create my own.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

As an indie author, it’s all of the things that go along with the writing. I’m a blogger, a PR person, a marketer, an accountant, and the publisher. If I made enough income to do this full time, however, I would love all of it.

Have you ever considered quitting writing and if so how have you worked through this?

No. I’ve had to justify myside career with the powers that be at my day job. My position is that, I’m doing both things and my work is not suffering. We agreed on this point and have moved forward. I have never, and likely will never consider quitting.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

It depends. If it is a travel day, I write whenever I can; on airplanes, in airports, in the hotel, etc. I try to get at least an hour in each day. When I’m home or when it’s a weekend, I’m up before everyone by about 5:30 AM. I read and respond to blog posts and then I write until I can’t anymore. Then, when my young daughter goes to bed at night, I’m usually back at it.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

I can’t afford to procrastinate. I’m an author who started late in life and I want to crank out as much as I can before I get tapped on the shoulder to check out. That keeps me motivated.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

Everyone will tell you neither. It’s the book cover. (Just kidding). I think they are equally important. I’ve read books by famous authors that had characters that were not well developed. Even with a great plot, this makes it hard to read.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

First, other indie authors are not competition. They are colleagues and we should all work to improve each other’s work. Second, traditional publishing is not the golden ticket that many writers think it is. I know plenty of traditionally published authors that still have day jobs. Third, be judicious when reading reviews of your work. I throw out the five star reviews and the one or two low reviews I have received. It’s those four star reviews that tell you the most about your writing and what needs to be improved.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

This is a tough question. I’ve used many techniques. I’ve shifted my strategy away from that author that posts in every single book related group on Facebook. The return is minimal. Instead, I place some very select Facebook ads. I also use my blog extensively and link it to all of my other social media accounts. If you are placing Facebook ads, there is much to learn. I spent the money on Mark Dawson’s course on mastering Facebook ads and it was very helpful.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

Keep writing and don’t be afraid to let others read your work. If your goal is to eventually publish your work, either traditionally or through the indie route, find someone you trust to read it early on. I did this and it gave me the encouragement to continue. A word about indie publishing, if you publish via the indie route, you can retain the rights to your work. If a publisher comes knocking on your door, you can publish work that you self-published via traditional publishing.

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

Do to my schedule, I don’t have time for writer’s block. That being said, sometimes I get stuck in a particular story or book. To combat this, I have multiple projects going on and jump between them if I get stuck. This usually frees up the blockage.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

I always think of the next book. In fact, I have ideas for the next four or five already sketched out. Like I said, I’m old and I’m watching the clock.

What do you wear to write?

I try to be as comfortable as possible. Of course, when I write on airplanes or in airports, this isn’t always an option. I don’t really think about my writing attire that much.

Don is the author of the Frank Rozzani Detective series and his books can be found on Amazon here. 

Don’s blog can be found here.

Thanks Don, a fab interview and I feel like I have got to know a blogging friend a lot more.

I can really relate to the juggling of a writing passion, a family and a job that involves travelling. I travel a lot and write my stuff on trains or in my head on long car journeys.

I use mind maps a lot with work but have never thought of using them for stories. I think I shall have a go with this technique.

I think what you say about four star reviews is really good. These are the reviews which as you say tell us the most about our writing.

Next week the person climbing into my chair will be…….author Nicholas Rossis

photo credit: <a href=”″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;


Book Reviewer Interviews @darkwriter #books #authors #writers

Book Reviewer Interview

Welcome to my weekly series – Book Reviewer Interviews. 

I believe that book reviewers hold valuable insight for us writers and their answers to my interview questions make intetesting blog posts.

Please welcome my new book reviewer friend John Green and author of the blog Illuminite Caliginosus

John, thanks so much for sitting in my interview chair. Please tell us about yourself.

First one’s always the hardest. Lessee now- born, raised and still living in Brooklyn, NY. Wanted to be either a baseball player or paleontologist when I was little. Ended up joining the Marines instead, traveled the globe and can’t really say a bad word about my tour. To paraphrase Malcolm X: the plan was theirs, any mistakes were mine.

Worked for Virgin USA for over thirteen years; had a blast and met a lot of good people and had some great experiences. It was like getting paid for hanging out with your friends! If there ever was such a thing as a good retail job, that was it.

The last few years I’ve been in the Sports & Entertainment field; blogging and reviewing was something I kinda fell into, and I really enjoy doing it. I’ve met a lot of good and… interesting… people during my online career.

I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program and a former Top 1000 Reviewer on the site.

Been an avid & voracious reader all my life; I was that nerdy kid who’d always get “volunteered” to enter trivia contests, spelling bees, etc, and I always had to take something into the bathroom with me to read (once upon a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Neither was being nerdy). One of these days I’ll finally finish my own novel and then get to see how the other half lives.

Anyone who wishes to contact me for any reason can do so via:
WordPress / Twitter /  Pinterest.

What made you start reviewing books?

During my time at Virgin USA I was the Magazines Buyer for the NY stores, getting my hands on more books and reading material than I’d thought possible (rubs hands gleefully).

**The store was located in the same building where Random House had their offices, and I was on good terms with the building guys so they always let me know when RH would dump out books. Discovered a lot of new authors that way- good, bad and ugly. I’ll always be proud to call myself a Dumpster Diver.**

**Our UPS driver, Joe, offered to grab a few books for me while he was delivering up there, and part of the stack he brought back included the first three books of GRRM’s Song of Ice & Fire- all hardcovers with original artwork.**

After Virgin USA closed I spent a lot of time on Amazon buying even more books. I got in the habit of sifting through the reviews for recommendations, etc, and picked up on a few individuals I felt I could rely upon not to steer me wrong, like EA Solinas, Chibineko and others. I’d always been the one my friends and family would go to for a critique because they knew I was hard but fair, and it finally occurred to me that I should write a few reviews myself- sort of give back a little and have my say. Next thing I know I’m making steady progress through the ranks and I wondered what I could do with this

How many books do you review a month?

It varies. I’ve slowed down over the past couple years; used to aim for maybe 5-10 a month, right now maybe half that. One of my goals is to clear out some of my TBR pile; I know- we ALL say that, but my work schedule affords me a lot of free time, so I have a good shot at it. I’ve still got stuff going back to the 2010 BEA I haven’t checked out yet.

What is your selection process for reviewing a book?

Nothing set in stone. The easy answer is “whatever catches my attention”, but defining that is the trick. I’m a very eclectic reader; I’ve always been chiefly into Fantasy/Sci-fi but right now I’m really into Steam/Diesel/Atompunk- though I haven’t seen much of the latter two so far. There’s also Lovecraftian Horror, which I think’s been under-appreciated but seems to be enjoying a renaissance now. Guess we can thank the oversaturated PNR/UF genres for that.

Both the blurb and the cover are key, of course- you never get a second chance at that first impression. There’s been quite a few eye candy covers that made me stop to check them out, only to get let down by the synopsis. So many books nowadays, especially in the YA genre, immediately drop the ball from sounding like carbon copies of each other that it’s hard to find anything worth investing time in. I swear you can choose ten, TEN, YA novels at random and the blurbs will all sound the same! How many Chosen Ones with Destined/Fated/Soulmates stories does the human race need? When’s the next Alice in Wonderland/Brothers Grimm ripoff due out? Will this end up being Gregory Maguire’s enduring legacy?

For me, it’s gotta be something at least a little different; whatever the genre it has to be something that makes it appear like the author actually had something to say- a story they wanted to tell and not just aping the latest trend to try and make a quick buck. And that gets harder to find every day.

A good one was Pagan by Andrew Chapman. It’s a PNR/UF/Horror series about vampires having existed for centuries but only certain agencies like the Catholic Church knew of them. All the books, movies, etc, served as misdirection and softening up for when they finally emerged and basically sucker-punched the entire human race. Some countries tried to make nice and assimilate them True Blood-style while others said F-that! Even the werewolves sided with humanity against the vamps. Made for a refreshing change of pace from sparkle-pires and woobie-wolves.

What is your book review process?

I always take notes while I’m reading, marking a passage or a page to go back to that merits attention- good or bad.

Every few chapters I’ll put it down and ruminate on what I’ve read and review my notes. Goodreads has a great feature where you can chart your progress while reading a book, post a comment about it and sync it to your Twitter account- it’s handy for sharing your thoughts on the book and when it comes time to compile your notes.

**I was doing this with a fantasy novel I was scheduled to review and the author saw it and got a good laugh over what I wrote. He even agreed with some of it.**

Grammar, spelling, punctuation and white space matter to me; more times than I’d like to remember I’ve put down a book for good because I’m unable to decipher it. I know ebooks always have formatting issues, but if I can’t even tell what language this is supposed to be in that’s on the author.

I once had an argument with an author on Twitter about this- it was the usual ‘how can you judge a book without finishing it’ crap. Well, if after fifty pages you still can’t spell, don’t know hyphens from commas after seventy-five and no clue about homonyms after one hundred, what else do I need to see?

Once I’ve finished the book it’s time to settle in, check my notes, consider the whole thing and start typing. I’ve yet to settle on a specific format, so I just write about the overall strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad points, citing whatever examples I feel are needed.

What do you think makes a good book?

Lol- how much time you got? These days it’s far easier to speak on what doesn’t, so how about we do both.

What makes for a good book: attention to detail. Internal consistency. Worldbuilding. It’s been said that the most important character in a story is the world itself, because everything happens in it and to it. So if I don’t get enough about the world and what’s going on with it, there’s a good chance I won’t be too vested in the story.

Some authors can overcome it. After all these years, Anne Bishop remains notoriously bad at worldbuilding, but she invests so much in the characters and maintains a narrow enough focus that the rest of the world never really comes into play. Even though you’re always aware of how much it’s lacking, it never impacts the story overmuch.
Others, like Laurell Hamilton, fail spectacularly at this. The premise of her Anita Blake series is waking up one day and finding out vamps, weres, etc, are real. This mythical date is never specified, but implied to be modern times- typical Urban Fantasy. Then you find out college courses are being taught about supernaturals and world governments have always known about them, but their presence has never impacted anything- no military developments, no improved police tactics (the paranormal division in her base city St. Louis is understaffed & underfunded), nothing about them has ever impacted the course of human history. This, of course, is to set the MarySue main character- a recent college grad at the start of the series- up as a font of knowledge & wisdom for the series, instead of the ones who taught her who have degrees and everything. Degrees in fields of study that supposedly never existed.

That’s actually par for the series; no one ever goes to the people who taught Anita Blake- whom they should already be well aware of- everyone has to go to a nobody like Anita. Who the hell would want the teachers when you can have the student? Not to mention why the hell are police being sent out to deal with monsters knowing next to nothing about them?

Plus there’s no logic in this series to the presence of weres. Lycanthropy, etc, is treated as an infectious disease- you can get vaccinated against it- but once infected, suddenly it confers all these mystical powers and abilities upon you. And you’re not supposed to be able to discriminate against them for having this condition, like HIV, but ignore the fact that they can rip you to shreds on a moment’s notice. Yet many areas subject weres to ‘varmint laws’- they can be shot on sight once a person is a known were.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Characters, not caricatures: I get that there’s only 36 Plots and the Hero’s Journey is gonna get recycled more than soda cans, but at least try to do something with all the tropes. Take the game Dragon Age: the elves in that fantasy world were much like the ones in LotR but were enslaved by humans at one point and are now second-class citizens clinging to the fragments of their once great culture and considered vagrants at best. Try to imagine the descendants of the elves of Rivendell living in run-down quarters of human cities, struggling to maintain their mostly forgotten heritage- the exploits of Elrond, Celeborn & Galadriel reduced to a children’s fable. Not only an interesting dynamic but a pretty strong allegory.

Also in Dragon Age, Mages are considered dangerous and are isolated from society into groups called Circles. Each nation has its own Circle of Magi, supervised under the sole auspices of the dominant religious authority- the Chantry. If it’s “determined” that the Circle Mages have gotten too out of hand, the Chantry can purge them with impunity and bring in a fresh batch to reform the Circle anew. And the mages spend their lives well knowing it. Can you imagine what life as an elven mage would be like? Things like that get me interested.

What doesn’t for make a good book: lack of editing, bad punctuation and grammar, poor spelling. An utter lack of originality and respect for the audience. Just because you’re writing a YA novel doesn’t mean you treat your audience like they’re Dick and Jane.

There’s a YA Fantasy novel that came out last year- The Witch Hunter- that was highly touted at the BEA and it was the second biggest pile of crap I’d read in 2015. To this day I haven’t even posted the review for it yet because just thinking about that book gets me angry: the MC/Chosen One was too dumb to draw her next breath unaided. How does it make any kind of sense to create characters that are supposedly the elite of their profession and the epitome of beauty and grace yet keep tripping over their own feet in a fight? It’s the literary version of that I Love Lucy scene where she’s at the top of the staircase, dazzling everyone in an elaborate costume and then almost falls down the stairs from the weight of her headdress.

I honestly don’t understand the insistence on treating YA heroines like this- and by female authors, no less. Is this some kind of Fifty Shades of Grey/Twilight thing, being the sexiest klutz in the world? It’s not endearing; it’s ridiculous and more suited for a romantic comedy than dealing with demons and vampires. And it’s practically a staple of the genre now. *sigh*

Authors also need to leave their personal agendas out of the books. One perfect example is Manda Scott, a UK crime fiction writer who wrote an otherwise very fine historical fantasy quadrilogy on Boudicca, the legendary Celtic warrior queen. Problem was as Scott’s an open lesbian and advocate of dream interpretation she practically clubbed you over the head with these themes all throughout the series. All the central & key characters were gay and even though it’s known that Boudicca was married with children, Scott created a lesbian lover for her and their relationship overshadowed everything. All the homosexual pairings in the books were between soulmates, etc, while most heterosexual ones, including Boudicca’s own marriage, were of convenience and because historically Scott couldn’t ignore them. I don’t think there was a single heterosexual relationship that survived the series, and there was no good reason for this. Plus the druids relied upon dream interpretation and such, so Boudicca was now kind of a Dreamer and Dreamers were never wrong- not in battle, not in anything… right up until when the Romans waxed them and suddenly it was all meant to be this way. The Dreamers just didn’t tell anyone.
Gotta be kidding me. Other than that it was great. ☺

Which 3 books have caught your eye recently and why?

I just signed up to review a book about a fledgling vampire who didn’t want to be one: The Young Vampire’s Survival Guide. He’s newly turned, has no idea what to do or how to control himself so there’s a body count building up and he’s drawing attention from all the wrong people. Stories like that- newly morphed characters that genuinely struggle to find out who and what they are, and have to deal with the consequences of their new existence- always draw my interest.

I also finally picked up Richelle Mead’s Soundless- always been intrigued by the idea of this story, an entire village living without sound. Even though I could never get into her other stuff I’ve been dying to read this one.

And I recently became aware of a book called One of Us- the story of a Anders Breivik, a Norwegian extremist who in 2011 became a domestic terrorist and killed over seventy people in Norway in an attempt to ‘wake up’ his countrymen to the threats of Islam and multiculturalism.

Are you a fan of a good plot twist?

Absolutely! Nothing like having the rug pulled out from under the characters to get me excited about the story and want to keep reading. But it can’t be arbitrary or just for the hell of it in a lame attempt at shock value- you can tell when that happens- they need to serve a purpose, advance the story. You don’t get enough of that anymore… or maybe I should read more mystery/thrillers.

How important is an opening chapter?

More than anything, it has to set the tone and give you at least an idea of what’s going on. I don’t need an encyclopedia about the impeding conflict, but it should be a starting point- introducing characters and a few particulars of the world itself. I’ve read a lot of books that just go on like the readers are natives, taking four or five chapters to let you know what’s happening. Working exposition into the story without turning into an As-You-Know-Bob infodump is becoming a lost art.

Best example of an opening hook I can give is from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy- it’s what brought Star Wars up from your parent’s basement. Read the first chapter of the first book; if that doesn’t sell you on the story and the new characters, I don’t know what else to tell you.

How do you approach a review if you have not enjoyed the book?

Depends upon why I didn’t enjoy it. Plot, writing, pacing, characters- all get approached differently. You know books can be weak in some aspects and stronger in others- some factors simply carry more weight depending on the type of book it is. I’m not the type to just say ‘this or that sucked’- I’ll go into the gory details why. Even so, you always try to find something to salvage from it all, something positive to take from the experience. Few books are ever a total loss.

What do you think is more important – plot or characters?

Again, it depends on the type of book. An action-adventure novel is more plot driven while a romance is about the characters. Of course, the best stories strive for a balance of both. I’m not looking for a lot of emotional growth from Conan while hacking his way across Hyboria but I definitely need to see it from Daemon, Saetan, Jaenelle and Lucivar in the Black Jewels stories. And it has to evolve within the story; you can’t just handwave it with a few lines of exposition because it’d be too messy to deal with or you just want to get it over with and get back to the “good stuff”. Too many writers of all stripes try to get away with this.

Do you find it hard to forget a good book?

Of course! A good book is like an old friend; you can always rely on them when you need a lift. I’ve still got books older that some people I know, older than my nieces and nephews! I came across a fantasy trilogy I’ve had since the 80s- Bloodsong by Asa Drake- and couldn’t wait to re-read them. Books, movies, cds- those are snapshots of your life you can instantly go back to whenever you like.

**I did a blogpost about them and the author, Asa Drake aka C. Dean Anderssen, saw it and permalinked to it on his website. That was very flattering.**

Have any books made you get emotional? Any examples?

Nah- nothing’s ever gotten me that worked up and once I close the cover, I’m good. Now I feel like I’m missing out.

Do you have a large book collection at home?

Lol- remember what I said about dumpster diving before? Between that, what I’ve had since childhood, years of attending the BEA and whatever I buy I’ve probably well over a thousand lying around here, not counting my ebook collection. I’d be good for an episode of Extreme Hoarders!

If you are mid-way and struggling with a book – what do you do?

Set it aside and go do something else- play video games, listen to music, grab another book… so long as it puts that one out of my mind. Give it a day or two and come back to it. If it’s still a chore to deal with it goes down as DNF.

What is your biggest book reviewer success story?

I can answer this a few different ways, and it’s not what you’d think.

An author once contacted me for a review of her urban fantasy novel; I agreed, but ended up hating the book and told her so. After I posted the review a friend- Naomi Clark, who’s a UF author in the UK- asked me about it so I lent her the book, and she loved it! The two of them have since become buddies. I’m kinda proud of that.

A parody author, Sue Knott, quoted my review for her Hunger Games spoof as part of the promo blurb for it on Amazon. That’s another pretty proud moment.

I get a lot of comments on my Anita Blake/Merry Gentry reviews from people both who thank me for sparing them the pain of having to read the books and from those who wonder why if I think the books suck so badly do I keep reading them. Things like these are the real success stories to me- when someone appreciates or is stimulated enough by the review to respond, even to challenge it. Whether they agree or disagree, I’m happy to engage anyone about any review I write.
Even the author.

Thanks you John for an interesting and insightful interview. 

So much to take in and think about here.

  • Your passion for books came through strongly. I loved your phrase ‘a good book is an old friend’ – that’s how it feels!
  • I get the impression you are firm but fair with your reviews. I think your reviews would challenge the author and this is a good thing. It sounds like you are up for a debate too!
  • I agree that world building is really important in a book. It is something that can get overlooked.
  • I need to read Richelle Mead’s Soundless – sounds interesting.
  • Your interview answers make me want to go work on proofing and grammar.


If you want to get in touch with John please click here to his blog.

If you are a book reviewer and fancy being interviewed on my blog please leave me a message in the comments section.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Helmut’s House</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;



The Novels That Tore My Heart Out and Left Me for Dead #Books #BookLovers


Novels That Tore My Heart Out &amp; Left Me For Dead

Photo Credit: StockSnap

Here are the top five novels that ripped my heart out and left me soaking in a puddle of tears.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the classic novels, “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables,” shame on you, and don’t read items 1 and 2, because they contain spoilers. I won’t ruin items 3-5.

1. “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott. Why does Beth March have to die? It seems like it’s only a plot point that moves her sister Jo’s story forward. And it rips out the hearts of readers. Anyone know the Alcott back-story? I’d love to hear it from you.

2. “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery. When Matthew dies of a heart attack after learning his bank has failed, I lost my mind with grief. Anne Shirley can’t absorb the news. “Mrs. Lynde, you don’t think—you can’t think Matthew is—is—” and she can’t finish. It’s a wonder the page is still legible, after the tears flooded my face and, on many a rereading, drenched the page.

3. “The Book Thief,” by Markus Zusak. This book was popular in reading clubs for two years after it debuted in 2007. It’s about a German family during World War II, the Memingers, who get deep into trouble while trying to hide a Jewish friend. The chapters alternate between Liesel Meminger’s perspective and the point of view of the Grim Reaper, who tells us which victims he’s coming for next. It’s terrifying, tragic and left me all weepy and weak-kneed, as good drama tends to do.

4. “My Mother’s Chamomile,” by Susie Finkbeiner. This book hasn’t won awards or become a bestseller, but it left a crater in my heart. It’s about a third-generation mortician and her family as they prepare the bodies of folks in their small town for burial. They comfort their clients, but they are outcasts because of their odd profession. When they experience the slow and painful death of one of their own, the village realizes the family is precious to them, and they rally to help bring comfort during the loved one’s last days. I can’t say enough about how real the characters felt to me. I consider them members of my own family. And it broke my heart to see their suffering.

5.  “The Sandpiper,” by Susan Brace Lovell. This also isn’t a bestseller, but it’s really good. It’s about a family’s struggle through addiction, infertility, death and loneliness. The protagonists are sisters Jamie and Kate, who must learn to help each other after years of resentment and alienation. The third main character is their family cottage, The Sandpiper, nestled among the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. During the hours it took me to read this book, my heart came unglued.

Your turn. What novels have ripped your heart out and left you weepy?

Rachel E. Watson blogs on life, faith, mental health, music and literature at She also writes poetry, short fiction and essays, and has been a journalist almost 10 years. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Thanks a lot Rachel, we loved having you take over the Blondewritemore blog! Drop by the offices again soon 🙂