Tour’s Books Blog

August 29, 2009

In Retrospect – Part One: Looking Back at Reviews

Filed under: Asleep at the wheel,Editorial,General,opinion — toursbooks @ 4:05 pm
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Like most people, or maybe unlike, I go back and revisit my ideas to see if they’ve changed.  There’s almost no way to keep personal likes and dislikes out of review.  If something makes you mad, or upset, or just violates your principals, maintaining an emotional distance just doesn’t happen.  In my work I deal with data and form my opinions based on facts, but even there two people can look at the same data and see different things.  If opinions vary when dealing with numbers and facts vary, it’s inevitable that reactions will vary even more widely when forming opinions on books – after all, a book is intended to elicit a reaction from the reader.

So I went back and revisited some of my reviews to see if I still felt the same way – positive or negative – about some of the books I’ve reviewed.  To do this, I looked primarily at those I like the best and the least.  I don’t give many A reviews and even fewer F reviews, so the lists aren’t long, but I did include a few B books that might be deserving of a second look.

The Best

Single, White Vampire by Lynsay Sands – Grade A- would change to B-

I just recently re-read this book and it is good, but not THAT good.  The story is lightweight fun with a few too many plot flaws to make an A grade.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie – Grade A- is unchanged

It’s just that well done that what flaws it has are complete irrelevant.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan – Grade A- is now B+

And more important than the change in grade is the book left my keeper shelf and moved on.  In the end, Beyond Heaving Bosoms is far more a loving tribute to a favorite genre, fun, funny and shallow.  In many ways, the two authors go a little too over-the-top and not far enough in their examination of a very diverse and long established genre.  They are so into their Smart Bitches comedy routine, it isn’t until later that realize just how much substance is missing.  No question both carved their names in the Romance arbiter totem for current readers who seem to rely more on others opinions than their own.

Here Kitty, Kitty by Shelly Laurenston – Grade A – is unchanged

If there a perfect balance between humor and romance in the paranormal shifter world, Shelly Laurenston does it here.  She did it in Christmas Pride in The Mane Event.  I just love Angelina and Nik and think Des and Mace rock!  Their place on my keeper shelf is secure.

The John Rain Series by Barry Eisler – Grades include A, A- is unchanged

This collection of 6 books about assassin John Rain has both of my ultra rare A ratings and two more A- ratings.  The international intrigue, assassin, black ops genre just doesn’t get done better than these and they just as good today as they were when they were when published.  In a genre where relevance is often measured by next week’s headlines, the fact these books remain complete engrossing and believable is saying something.

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruise and Bob Thayer – Grade A- is Unchanged

This is a book that long after the initial reading remains a personal favorite for a variety of reasons.  The story has many elements to it that keeps the plot moving, twisting and turning through a labyrinth of old lies and crimes and current ones going on.  Great off-beat characters, a core romance that is as quirky as the people in a romantic suspense novel that’s laugh at loud funny while keeping a dead serious core.

The Killing Floor by Lee Child – Grade A- is Unchanged

What can I say, a bloody, violent novel that created a protagonist so memorable he’s in his 13th book this year.  Few subsequent books matched the pacing – or the gore – of this one, but what a way to launch your writing career!  It’s everything an action thriller should be.

Accidentally Were? and Witch, Vamp, Were? By Anne Douglas – both A- and Unchanged

These two novellas are just great.  Good characters, good story and the foundations of a really fascinating urban fantasy.  Tightly plotted and written, each seems a great deal more than they are – and Witch, Vamp, Were? still has the funniest voyeurism scene I’ve read.

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – Grade A- now B+

The plot just wasn’t A- material.  Close, but no cigar.

Alexandria by Lindsey Davis – Grade A- now B

This historical whodunit was not Davis’ best work, but it came during a drought of good books so it seemed better than it was.

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase – Grade B+ is now A-

Whatever I thought was a flaw here just isn’t.  A creative, original, well paced historical romance that’s far more about attraction than sex.  Just about as good as historical romance gets – funny, great historical detail, well developed plot and characters that are completely memorable.  In addition to Mr. Impossible, Lord Perfect, The Last Hellion, and Lord of Scoundrels are some of the best Regency novels ever written and all sit on my keeper shelf.

Many books I read never get reviewed, there’s just no time to do them all.  That’s especially true of all the ebooks, mostly novellas, that I read.

The Worst

Only Pleasure by Lora Leigh – Grade F- revised Grade C- for story and F for enjoyment.

My reaction to this was a reflection of the complete lack of credibility of the heroine and her reactions to the so-called ‘hero’.  The idiotic justification for criminal behavior at the beginning of the books that still drives me right over the edge.  Despite these huge issues, I should probably have done what I did with Maya Banks’ Sweet Persuasion, give it two grades.

Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks – Grade B- with an F for enjoyment is unchanged

Nothing I can do about this.  In the real world, where this story is set, we mere mortals are constantly asked by our court systems to indict men who abuse women who swear they were willing participants.  Where is society supposed to draw these lines?  How do we know how much is a kind of fear driven emotional blackmail (use the safe word and we will never be together again) and how much true willingness?  This book just crossed a line when making the heroine’s continued participation in her personal fantasy dependent on never using a safe word, which really felt like psychological blackmail.  This goes way past any comfort zone I have on both an intellectual and visceral level.  It did, however, inspire an editorial on BDSM in general.

Riding Double by Evie Adams- Grade F- is unchanged

This erotic ebook novella had nothing.  No plot, characters or pacing.  Just sex and stupid, selfish, boring people.  Some things do NOT improve with age.

Mari’s Men by Stormy Glen – Grade F- is Unchanged

Another ebook that’s a complete waste of bytes.  An incoherent plot, redundant paragraphs and sentences and plain bad writing makes for an utterly dumb novella that could be used as the perfect bad example in any creative writing class.

The Lords of the Satyr Trilogy by Elizabeth Ambler – Grade F is changed as follows:

Nicholas – D+ enjoyment F (So much promise and then magical dildos?)

Raine – D- enjoyment F (Sex with a hermaphrodite and didn’t notice the penis?)

Lyon – DNF

I still sincerely dislike these books and think both the plots and the characters lack credibility, but the writing quality is good – lush and smooth.  Too bad the plots and characters weren’t as richly drawn.

**********************************************************

Not too many changes, and certainly no major rethinking, but enough to know that some decisions are driven by external factors that have little to do with the book.   In Part Two, I’ll be doing a list of ‘favorites’ that includes many books that I haven’t reviewed.

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