Monthly Archives: December 2012

Eradicating Rave Reviews

Did you see the recent New York Times article by David Streitfeld? The one about Amazon “cracking down” on the abundance of five-star book reviews? I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled… but also in a bit of a predicament.nytlogo379x64

As an avid reader, I’m always on the prowl for new books to devour
(when I’m not buys editing and proofing manuscripts that are going to hopefully become those books that other avid readers will want to devour!) and I often look to Amazon book reviews to get a feel for what others think. NOT that I rely on what others think or assume that because it’s a five-star bestseller it will be for me. (Case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey – but then, I’ve already expounded on this in another post!)
starsjBut still, it doesn’t hurt to know what people are saying – IF what they’re saying is not a rubber-stamped, don’t-want-to-hurt-the-author’s-feelings kind of review. Unfortunately, most reviews (as the article points out) are just that… especially if the author has recruited friends and family and former English teachers to review his or her book.

As an editor, though, I’m often asked to write those very reviews for writers – having worked on their books or because as a friend of an author, my professional status will carry some weight and hopefully will influence purchases. But how do I write an honest review that might actually be critical and less than five stars? How do I say that, “Well, I did the best I could with the story, but it still isn’t great?” Or how do I tell writers whose works I had not worked on, but think maybe I should have – that they might want to ask someone else?

I can always find something nice to say, but it doesn’t seem to be enough; so many reviews have only everything nice to say. So I hem and haw, and shuffle my feet, and carefully edit my reviews so that I don’t really lie – but I don’t tell the whole truth.

So, thank you Amazon, for being tough – and giving me the courage to be tough, too.

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Holy Tweet!

Once again, my world is turned upside down (or for those of you sticklers who insist we cannot end sentences with prepositions … once again, upside down is my world).

At first, I only wrote stories on yellow-lined legal pads of paper and only read books the old-fashioned way – in print, in hardcover. I listened to CDs on a walkman. I had an answering machine. I had a vcr.

But I was determined not to be left behind, so I jumped on the bandwagon – moving slowly from desktop to laptop, from pc to MAC. I went from voicemail to email to text; from flip phone to iPhone. I got an iPod, a DVD player, a scanner!

I joined Facebook, set up a website, started a blog!

I was on a twenty-first century roll. And then I thought – this is enough. I could do my editing, share my thoughts, make friends, be happy. I didn’t need Twitter.  That’s for those young punks.pope

And then I read that the Pope sent out a tweet (in seven languages, no less) on his iPad (@Pontifex – in case you’re interested). He has a million followers already.

I’ll never catch up.

 

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Reading for Fun?

What a concept!

As an editor, I am constantly reading – for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, contextual missteps, and story development – or lack thereof. Rarely do I treat myself with time to read for enjoyment.

Somehow, however, I managed to squeeze in a few very interesting reads, and while I still have the bad habit of thinking how I’d “improve”on the story, I was able to keep myself in check long enough to actually just read.circus
First up was The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Forget peanuts, cotton candy, and elephants. This circus – that suddenly appeared at midnight – and disappeared just as mysteriously, was filled with fantasy and magic, tempting us to suspend our sense of reality and delve into this wonderful-yet-frightening other world, which I willingly did. So rich with detail and descriptions, it was easy to “see” the circus and feel the excitement.

goneNext was Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. If I’d been at the circus before, now I was at an amusement park – in particular, a roller coaster. Written from two points of view – I thought I’d figured “IT” out, and then just as quickly, thought something entirely different. I knew the author was manipulating me – but it didn’t matter. Flynn was so clever and subtle – that not until I had finished the story (of which I cannot reveal even a morsel or it will spoil the ride for you!) did I see how easily I was led down one path and then another. I could not stop reading it; once you’re on that roller coaster, you can’t get off till it’s over.

Third was a book I’d had on my to-read list for quite a while: People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, by Richard Lloyd Parry. The true story of the disappearance of a young British girl, a former airline stewardess who moved to Tokyo for a little adventure and to make a lot of quick money. Obviously naive, Lucie walked right into a life of despair – and eventual death. Written by a journalist who followed the entire case, it was a thorough examination of a world rarely seen by outsiders, a compelling account of two different cultures – and the pretty girl who got caught in the middle.

lucie

Though I never knew Lucie, I was quite affected when the whole story unfolded, a testament to the author.

And now I must return to “reading-for-my-job” – which, by the way, is also fun.

 

 

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