Alexandra's Adventures in Books

The real world is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.


Primarily reads Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Mysteries. From Children's to Adult.

GoodReads isn't Facebook! Or Twitter!

On the heels of a user asking GoodReads to add Twitter style @ing to "pull in" people into discussions (ugh!), now we have another who wants GR to add Facebook style tagging.


My head is going to explode.

Stupid Things (Some) Authors Say

As seen in a discussion regarding if authors should read reviews for their books, and if those reviews are "feedback" for the author:


"...why an author should even have a place on which readers can post reviews, if the author isn't supposed to look at them..."


I don't know if this author knows something I don't - that there are authors who have set up places for readers to post reviews, or if she is under the impression that GoodReads and Amazon (which is what we're discussing) are sites authors have set up for readers to post reviews.


Either way, I'm shaking my head.


Isn't it so nice of those authors to provide areas for us little readers to share our opinions of their books?  For author "feedback" no doubt. ;)

Further Reader Advisory

If you see a book with one of these award badges, and I'm pretty sure I have:



I advise to not take it as any indication of quality in any way, shape or form. I wouldn't give this award any merit at all.


For additional information about Reader's Favorite, see my post here:

Another Bad Review "Club"

After seeing an author recommend "Reader's Favorite" to other authors as an inexpensive alternative to Kirkus for editorial reviews it set off warning bells for me when she also mentioned she'd gotten some reviews posted to Amazon from it.


So, of course I decided to check it out.  Here's how it works for authors:


Authors can request a free review, or pay a fee for an "expedited" review.  The author's book is submitted for member readers to chose to read - I'll get to how it works on the reader's side further on.


The free service doesn't guarantee the author will get a review, the paid service does guarantee a review.


The review will be provided to the author and they can post the review in the "editorial review" section of Amazon if they want. If the review is at least 4 stars Reader's Favorite will also post the review to their site, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.


I haven't (yet) verified if they're posting to Barnes & Noble as a consumer, but if not so far this is no problem.


However if you keep reading in the author area you see at least one glaring red flag.  They facilitate author review swapping:



Which we know, and authors should know, violates TOS for sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and I presume Barnes & Noble, and probably everywhere else that allows consumer reviews.


I also strongly feel that any author considering doing business with a company like this should not simply look at the author information, but also the reader information, and ensure the service is in complete compliance of various TOS as well as FTC regulations, prior to doing business with them.  The authors I warned about this were distressingly unconcerned about anything other than the fact that they didn't feel they personally were violating any TOS by requesting reviews by this outfit.  Nevermind the rest of how this site functions, and how those reviews are posted that do violate various TOS.


Which takes us to the Reader's side.  What do readers get and what are they expected to do?


There are some stipulations I find bothersome, but don't violate TOS, so I won't detail those here.


Firstly, they are required to provide a review for a book they choose to accept within 3 weeks.  But then it goes on to say if they need more time that's not a problem, and if they decide not to review a book they can just remove the book from their list.  So, that's a bit confusing.  I'll point out that requiring a review in exchange for a free book violates Amazon and GoodReads TOS.


However, if these reviews were simply being used as editorial reviews, this still wouldn't be a problem.  So, hang in here with me.  Moving on...


RF tells readers, "We will post your review on Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest, as well as on our website. The author can post the review in the Editorial Reviews section of their Amazon page. You can post your review anywhere you like except Amazon, Google Books and Barnes & Noble because your review will already be posted there."


This is problematic. They cannot post the review anywhere they like, because their reviews will violate GoodReads TOS, and probably TOS of other retailers. They cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews. They can only post them as professional reviews where professional reviews are allowed, such as their own blog or their Facebook, etc.


Additionally I know for a fact that these reviewers do still post their reviews as consumer reviews on Amazon, at least sometimes.  Here's why:


"Although this is primarily a volunteer position, we also pay a small amount for each review and a little more for priority reviews. But this money is not enough to be considered payment for your services and should instead be thought of as a gift that can add up to a tidy sum over a couple of months. In addition, every month one lucky reviewer will win $100 in a raffle-style giveaway."


Not only are authors paying Reader's Favorite, but the reviewers are being paid per review.  They're also being entered into a cash drawing.  THIS means their reviews cannot be posted as consumer reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, and if/when they are they are violating TOS.



And, a chance to win free books.  Also means posting these reviews as a consumer review would violate TOS:





And, it gets worse.  Reader's Favorite only publishing a review if it's a least 4 stars is one thing, since presumably they're doing it as editorial/professional reviews. On the reader side I saw no stipulation that they could not post a less than 4 star review wherever they choose to post the review.  Although from information provided on the author's side, which you'll see below, it strongly suggests that member readers will be advised not to post a less-than-4-star review publicly, possibly in verbiage not visible until/unless one is a member.


However, Reader's Favorite does allow authors to "review the review", and "provide feedback" so the reviewer can "improve".  Which is problematic, when these reviewers are not specifically and firmly advised they cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews.


The information about this provided to authors is even more problematic:


"If a book receives less than 4 stars no official review is given. Instead, the reviewer will write constructive criticism to let the author know what problems they had with the book and offer any suggestions they may have to improve it. This will be about the size of a regular review and will be sent to the author privately; it will not be posted publicly. We are here to help authors, not hurt them.

Although we as a company do not interfere with what rating a reviewer gives a book, as the rating must be what the reviewer feels is appropriate, we do monitor the average ratings of our reviewers to ensure they are being fair and honest about their ratings to maintain the integrity of our reviews."


"Because it is critical that reviewers provide quality reviews, we invite you to Review your Reviewer. When your review is complete, you will be able to login to your Author's Area and rate your reviewer on a 5-star scale and provide a short review, just as they did for you. Your feedback is presented to the reviewer to help them improve their skills, the same way book reviews help authors improve theirs. The information is also passed to the Readers' Favorite staff to help us ensure the quality of our reviewers and reviews."


A lot of red flags there, this careful language suggests that reviewers will be monitored and rewarded/penalized if the "quality" of their reviews is not considered "fair", by the company, which I don't think it's unreasonable to consider it likely to mean keeping their overall rating/review average high, to keep authors happy.


And even more problems - an author I was talking to about this quoted information from their site that I have been unable to locate, it's possible it's visible only to those that have accounts in a member's area.  This is what she posted and said was from their site:


"Goodreads also has restrictions regarding reviews posted by professional review companies, so we ask our reviewers to use their personal Goodreads account to post your review. If you do not see our review on your Goodreads page then the reviewer does not have a Goodreads account. However, you can post the review yourself. You can either post an excerpt of your review in your book's description or you can post our complete review like any other reader's review. Be sure to keep the first line showing the review is from us, then it makes no difference who actually posts it."


Those of you familiar with GR will see how this is problematic.  Sure, if an author quotes a professional review in their own review space with the designation "Review From Author", GoodReads might let that fly, although it definitely still is a violation of TOS and should only be posted in areas where promotional information is allowed, not a review.


The statement also doesn't specify this definitely would not be acceptable for non-authors.  GoodReads doesn't allow people to post professional reviews as long as they do so from their personal accounts, or as long as they credit where the review is from.  GoodReads doesn't allow commercial/professional reviews to be posted as reader reviews, at all.



Unfortunately this service is attractive to indie authors who think editorial reviews are important, and the cost of Kirkus is prohibitive, or the review they received from Kirkus was not suitable for promotional purposes. The authors I spoke to who used this service hadn't even bothered to look at the reader side of things, although did admit to being pleased they'd received reviews posted to Amazon as consumer reviews.


In my opinion this service is very close to the scam the coupon clubs had been running, convincing the unwary they were in compliance with Amazon TOS when they were very much not.  And I wanted to warn other readers about this particular service, what it's doing, why it's a problem. I also think it's a safe bet there are many others like it out there.



Stupid Beyond Help

So, an author posted this somewhere in the bowels of GoodReads yesterday:


"I feel the same. Amazon is extremely controlling about who can post a review. A very good friend of mine bought a paperback copy and has tried posting her review multiple times, but Amazon keeps booting it off. For some reason they think she's not a verified purchaser so they won't allow the review to post. And good luck on trying to contact them. You'd have better luck trying to get a sunburn on Antarctica than to get anyone to understand what you're trying to ask them."

So, I took a deep breath and responded:
'Amazon doesn't require people to be verified purchasers in order to post reviews. So that is not the reason her review is not being allowed to be posted.

They do not allow friends and family of an author to post reviews, for reasons I think are pretty obvious. That would be why her review is not being allowed to be posted.

I do not consider this prohibition by Amazon "extremely controlling" in the least. I consider it reasonable, understandable, and I'm quite thankful for it.'
I also posted this:
Her response today? You're all gonna love this:
"Amazon has no idea she's my friend, and yes, they do only post verified purchases. They don't care if it's your friend, grandmother, aunt or a perfect stranger as long as their system verifies the purchase was made with a credit card bearing the same name."


And in another conversation a different author stated this:


"For perspective, I am aware of many many indy authors who solicit almost all their reviews from relatives and Facebook friends. That's far more misleading than an RF reviewer posting one review. All this appears to be somewhat the nature of self-publishing for better or worse."


Believe me, there are still many authors out there thinking like this.  Thankfully they're mostly very small potatoes, but they're all chatting each other up about how this sort of thing is perfectly fine, and there are more out there than you may see.  Of course thankfully they're still a minority, or at least only a minority is dumb enough to say things like this in public.


Middle Grade Fantasy Freebie!

The Book of Kindly Deaths - Eldritch Black

The Book of Kindly Deaths is currently free for the Kindle version. If you like MG Fantasy I highly suggest you grab this one.


The blurb: Eliza Winter's whole world is turned upside down when she discovers a hidden room in her missing grandfather's sprawling Gothic house. Inside the room, below a stained glass window where moonlight shines no matter the hour, waits The Book of Kindly Deaths.

Desperate for clues for grandfather’s whereabouts, Eliza opens the book of ominous, enchanted tales and soon discovers that nothing is what it seems, and that sometimes fairy tales are true...

When a sinister man claiming to be a book collector arrives at the house, Eliza realizes there's far more at stake than she could have ever imagined.

Now Eliza must battle her darkest fears to save her family from the book's guardian, the terrifying ghoul Grim Shivers. Soon she is forced to travel into the heart of the Grimwytch, a haunted world of terrifying monsters where it's forever midnight.


My review:


2 Cups original imagination from an obvious talent

1 Cup Grimm’s Fairy Tales

½ Cup Incorrigible children like those from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

1 pinch each disgusting, gross and weird

Fold in one plucky heroine, one missing grandfather, and one very mysteriously creepy book

Season with atmospheric description and deliciously creepy writing

Mix together and sprinkle lightly with gruesome details.

"On a desk in the room with the stained glass windows sat a book.
It was a thick volume with a worn and cracked black cover showing a gold symbol, a rectangle within two circles that sparkled and flickered as if teased by ghostly fingers. Voices whispered from inside the book, growing in volume, a few human, a few not."

Poor Eliza has a dreary mother, one of those practical sorts who doesn't allow things like imagination and curiosity. I already know I don't like her much. But perhaps she does have reasons for this sad flaw.

Twelve year old Eliza has come with her parents to clean out her grandfather's house and catalog things of value. As her grandfather is missing this seems a bit odd and perhaps slightly premature.

As Eliza reads some of the stories in The Book of Kindly Deaths there are clues these might not be simply stories. Including a strange memory she has of the last visit to her grandparent’s home six years before when she was only six.

"The phantom of a forgotten memory crossed her mind. A ghost of an event that had occurred the last time she was at this house. Although the recollection was fleeting, she still felt an icy sting of dread."

After Eliza, and we the readers, are treated to some tales from The Book of Kindly Deaths, where we learn a bit about the denizens of a place full of nightmarish creatures called Grimwytch, Eliza comes to be in immediate danger and finds herself in Grimwytch. There she finds both villains and allies, and learns what happened to her grandfather.

This book has that dark fairytale vibe, and stories within the story. The writing is descriptive and deliciously creepy.

There are a few mildly gruesome bits, but nothing I’d hesitate a middle grade reader reading, as long as they enjoy dark and creepy stories. Young people who delight in spooky tales will eat this one up.

I also think people older than Middle Grade will enjoy this one. I’m an adult and I sure did. I very much hope there are more stories of Eliza to come.

Are Notifications Dead Again?


Clean Up on Aisle Five!

Remember that author pal of Ms. Vidal's, who joined in to attempt to get the attention of a reviewer's employer and making accusations against him?


If you don't, you can read about it here: Another Author Joins in the Fun.


Well, I am pleased to report that particular author as of today is no longer a GoodReads Author.


Good Riddance. 


It had been noticed a few days ago that the offending comment of hers posted to Ms. Vidal's blog and FB page had been removed.  Presumably she'd gotten an inkling it had gotten her into some hot water.  Just as Vidal had deleted her blog post targeting reviewers right before she also lost her GR Author status.


A third author has joined in the fun, harassing Ms. M. on one of her reviews.  After careful research it's been determined this author has been rating/reviewing the same books from two different GoodReads accounts.  Most are his own books, but a couple are books written by his pals.  He also has posted ratings of some of his books under more than one format.


This all has been reported to GoodReads.  Hopefully they'll get that mess cleaned up soon as well.

Reading progress update: I've read 70%.

End Game: Fallen Empire, Book 8 - Lindsay Buroker

"Alisa looked wistfully in the direction Leonidas had gone, wishing Jelena would approach him at some point. She felt certain that he would volunteer an arm as sturdy as a metal bar for gymnastics purposes."



(I'd credit the artist but I've been unable to track this pic to the original source.  It's fan art for the Mass Effect game, but I thought it fit well here.)


I am enjoying this final installment of the series, but reading is bittersweet because it brings me closer to the end and it'll be OVER!  I can see this series becoming one of my comfort re-reads, characters that start to feel like friends.


There's action here, but this one also brings us closer to some real heart, with the relationship between Alisa, Leonidas, and Jelena.

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

Cleon Moon: Fallen Empire, Book 5 - Lindsay Buroker

Why, yes I am eating these up like candy :)

Reading Progress 77%

Relic of Sorrows: Fallen Empire, Book 4 - Lindsay Buroker

I noticed one reader call these books "Sci Fi Crack" and I can't really disagree.  They're a lot of fun, strong on character and action, and the plot is pretty good.  Sure they get into tons of messes, and some due to decisions we might roll our eyes at a bit, but it's fun so who cares?


One thing I like is that the "bad guys" are usually not just purely bad, but have understandable motivations, are often not really bad people, there's just a lot of conflict arsing out of conflicting loyalties and an unstable political situation.


I also like the fact that although there is a bit of romance simmering, it's slow burn and not the main plot, or even a major part of the plot.  Just one of the many personal dynamics among a varied cast of characters.


Overall, these books aren't deep literature, nor hard core sciencey sci-fi, but great entertainment, with characters to root for.  My cup of tea.

Honor's Flight

Honor's Flight: Fallen Empire, Book 2 - Lindsay Buroker

Kindle version ends at 85%. However, since what is included after that is the short story

Starfall Station (Fallen Empire #2.5), which is a direct continuation of their story, I think that's perfectly fine in this case.

Reading Progress 28%

Honor's Flight: Fallen Empire, Book 2 - Lindsay Buroker

“It’s possible he has an inordinately high opinion of himself,” Alejandro said.

“I just assumed he had an inordinately low opinion of Beck.”
“That is also possible.”
“Usually,” Leonidas said, “people talk about me behind my back, and I’m forced to use my enhanced auditory faculty to hear what disreputable things they’re saying about me.”
“We didn’t want you to strain yourself,” Alisa said.

They crack me up.

Atlic by Sophie Davis

Atlic - Sophie  Davis

Thankfully the angsty romantic uncertainty with the MC, Stassi, that was annoying me cleared up around the 20% mark, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Not quite as much as the first one, but still liked it and went on to read book three.


One thing I really like about Stassi is that she has a lot of empathy. Even when she was doubtful of wanting a relationship with the LI (though clearly attracted to him, and vice versa), she was able to put herself in his shoes, and snapped herself out of being unfairly cold to him, treated him as a friend, and had understanding for his situation.


And again, this story contains a romantic angle, but it's not a huge focus, which I also appreciated.


This book covers an interesting heist that takes place in their current day, the future. No time travel then, but a lot of fun and imaginative high tech to play with. Overall a satisfying read. Although, dang it, it ends in a bit of a cliff hanger. Main present plot is resolved, but then there's a bit more that occurs that is of the "To Be Continued" type.

Legends Untold by Sophie Davis

Legends Untold: Timewaves #3 - Sophie  Davis

I need the next one right now.


Couple quibbles: They go back to the time of Lady Jane Grey, London 1500-whatever. Language used by the contemporaries isn't really true to the time, but not too jarring to someone not expecting historical accuracy, except a few times. Once, when Lady Jane says, "okay". Um, yeah, that's so anachronistic it's jarring. Another time another contemporary says it, and our MC says it to a contemporary - when she's a time traveler trying to, you know, fit in with the time.


In one scene Lady Jane is wearing silk pajamas. I'm not an expert but I'm pretty darn sure women didn't wear pajamas in the 1500's. Pants of any sort were a big NO, even for sleeping attire.


But with the story it's really pretty minor. I don't expect anyone reading this, particularly after reading the first two and knowing what to expect, is going to be displeased. A thoroughly enjoyable time travel adventure. Sadly ending, again, in a cliff-hanger.


I NEED the next one!

Lucky Find, I Hope

The Clockwork Cathedral - Heather Blackwood

Because I enjoyed Hounds of Autumn - Heather Blackwood, I snagged The Clockwork Cathedral when I noticed it offered for free.


There are five books in this series and over the last couple weeks each of books in the series has been offered for free for a short time.  Normally I don't get additional books in a series until after I've read the first one and I enjoyed it.  But in this case I grabbed them while free, in case I do enjoy this series.


Hopefully I will enjoy these books and it'll be a win-win! If not, well, at least they were free.




Currently book #4 is free. If this series looks interesting I suggest snagging that one now, and see if the others roll around to free again at some point.