Sunday, 26 July 2015


When there are so many books to choose from, why put your reader off with e.g. silly typos?

I’ve recently read a book published by an author who appears to sell well. It had many good points – great characters and setting, funny incidents that made you smile or even laugh out loud, but if I hadn’t been on a long train journey I doubt very much I would have finished it.

It contained two of my biggest bugbears:

      1)         Typos. Three major ones, where character names were used wrongly. That might not even count as a typo, rather just pure carelessness. It certainly pulled me right out of the story as I tried to work out why X was suddenly doing something when he/she wasn’t even supposed to be there.
      2)         Contrived plot/suspense. By contrived suspense I mean that the author, narrator and characters all know ‘something’. This something is hinted out to the reader but not actually revealed. This drives me mad. I can share a character’s suspense if they themselves really don’t know something, but I just can’t believe it when the character does know but the author is manipulating me to think something else.

In this particular book the hero was pining after a previous lover who had an androgynous name so it could have been a man or a woman. Nowhere in the first third or so of the book was he/she or his/her used in connection with this character. Clearly we were meant to be kept guessing. But why? The hero obviously knew. It didn’t add anything to the plot, just gave you a little thought ‘oh I wonder …’ which would have been fine for 4 or 5 pages but not a third of the book! And as soon as the lover is shown to be female the book is littered with use of the appropriate feminine pronoun in relation to her, so this obviously was completely contrived.

Black mark. Don’t play with your reader unless there is a point.

And that wasn’t the only example of contrived suspense, there were at least two others, so it was no wonder I wanted to scream at the book more than once.

The annoying thing was, apart from these issues, it was a good read. One that could have been made great by some judicious editing. This was a traditionally published book, so no excuse that there wasn’t an editor involved. It makes me wonder what went wrong. Lack of time? Experience? Training?

When you’re reading a book, what are the kinds of things that infuriate you (or, as I say more politely in the title, put you off)?

Saturday, 18 July 2015


Today would have been my parents' 70th Wedding Anniversary, had they lived. They married in 1945 and I remember, as a thirteen-year-old (or thereabouts) asking my mother why she had married my father. I had never seen them kiss, or hold hands. Out walking, my mother (like the Queen) was always a few steps ahead of my father. My mother could be very snippy - sharp even. She rarely smiled and there was always a sadness around her somehow. My father, on the other hand, was gentle and laid-back - almost comatose at times - and full of jokes and funny phrases; one of of his favourites, when I got back home from wherever I'd been, was 'Hello, love. How's your bum for spots?'. If my mother was giving him grief about something he would listen for a while then put up a hand and say, with a beaming smile,'Shut up, love, and give us a kiss.' My mother would say, 'Oh, you!' and whatever it was she'd been on about was forgotten. It was hard for me - deep into my Georgette Heyer reading period - to see how there could ever have been romance, of the fast-beating hearts and flowers variety, between them. So, what answer did I get to my question? 'We'd been through a war and there weren't many men around. And your dad was handsome. And besides, he bought the material for my wedding dress in Italy in the middle of a war before he'd even asked me to marry him, so what else could I have done when he turned up on the doorstep with it?' I like to think that was a tongue-in-cheek answer but I can't quite believe it was. I don't remember them ever buying one another a birthday card or a present. For Christmas every year my mother knitted my father a pair of socks in 3ply wool on four needles. My father forked out for a bottle of Chianti in a raffia holder because it reminded him of his time in Italy and that Chianti was the only alcohol that entered the house all year. I've read recently of someone who has found lots of love letters her parents sent to one another, full of longing and love, and romantic writing - all I found was household bills (paid, of course). And yet ... they were a team. My father's last words to me as I left his hospital bedside (not expecting him to die that night) were 'Look after your mum, love.' I did. My mother's last words to me were, 'I'd love to see your dad, just one more time.' And then she, too, was gone. I don't think I've consciously used my parents' lives in any of my novels and yet ... that wedding dress story has had an airing, the funny phrases have seen the light of day again, poignant last words have been written. Thanks for listening. And here they are on their wedding day.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The World Gone Mad: Amazon's Review Policy

Exhibit A....
Oh, Amazon! What is your game?

There’s a bit of a flutter on social media at the moment as people — writers in particular — become increasingly outraged that Amazon is apparently (I only say apparently because it hasn’t actually happened to me — I don’t doubt that it is happening) deleting reviews, and preventing posting of any more. In the words of an email sent to at least one author, this is on the grounds that “your account activity indicates that you know the reviewer”. 

People review their friends’ books as well as those by strangers! Who knew? They do it, of course, in much the same way as they might visit the teashop their friend runs (equivalent to buying the book), or recommend their curtain making or beauty therapy businesses (equivalent to leaving a review). Your friend has a good project and you want people to know about it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Authors love authors. They gravitate towards one another. They are their friends for all sorts of reasons, but one of them is that they love books. And authors read each other's books. They leave reviews to give a fellow author a helping hand. Reviews are their life blood (and Amazon needs them, too). It’s standard practice to send  book to a stranger in return fro an honest review. That’s been going on since book reviewing began. Does that mean you know the reviewer?

While some writers do give five star reviews of poor books in the expectation of reciprocal praise for their own third-rater (which is one reason why I never agree to trade reviews), it doesn’t apply to everyone. And these kind of relationships are NOT those which are easily picked up by Amazon, because they might be conducted (say) in Facebook review groups between people who have no other connection and who may well review under a different name.

I don’t review many books — not as many as I intend to — and I’ve always been open about the fact that I prioritise books by people I know AND those which I think deserve four or five stars. That doesn’t mean my reviews aren’t honest because I know the author.  Here’s the first paragraph from the first review I ever wrote:

Exhibit B...
I'm not going to lie. I'm not a fan of Regency novels and I am a friend of Anne Stenhouse. These two facts are linked because I picked up Bella's Betrothal only because Anne wrote it. I wasn't going to review it either. Then I read it.”

In the light of that I’ve been expecting my reviews to be struck off. Sure enough just a few days ago Amazon emailed me on the subject of Anne Stenhouse’s books…inviting me to contribute a review of her latest.

I have no idea what Amazon’s trying to do with its new review policy; but the really frightening thing is that I don’t think Amazon knows, either.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Dozens of free books in this July only Rafflecopter draw – don't miss!

During the whole of July, The Fussy Librarian is running a Rafflecopter promotion – 29 best-selling authors are giving away lots of copies of their books, every day. 

Two Novel Points of View bloggers are participating – Jenny Harper is  giving away 5 e-copies of her latest Heartlands novel, People We Love, on the 18th,  and Mary Smith is offering free copies of No More Mulberries and Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni  on the 24th.

So be sure to hop on over and enter the draw!