Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Apocalypse #ShortStory DEAD MEAT by Nick Clausen

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Dead Meat by Nick Clausen

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3 stars.
This is a long short story, possibly a novelette, illustrating Day One of a zombie apocalypse; I read it on a long train journey.
What I liked:
  • The basic premise: a day-by-day account of the zombie apocalypse.
  • How the outbreak was supposed to have started; an unusual and clever idea, not one I’d read before.
  • The characterisation is good, with each of the three protagonists clearly defined, in their dialogue, actions and (most importantly) their inner  thoughts; the relationship between the three is explained early, and works well.
  • The pace is good, and the writing mostly flows well.
  • That the book is written in the present tense, which I always prefer for more suspense and immediacy.
What I was not so sure about:
  • One of the main three characters is supposed to have seen loads of zombie films and every episode of The Walking Dead, but, when his group are trapped in a room with a zombie the other side and discussing their options for escape, does not appear to have learned how to kill them, and devises complicated plans that involve throwing stuff over them; they seem to think it more important to cut their arms off rather than kill the brain—the emphasis is on not getting scratched (which may but may not kill you) as opposed to getting bitten (which means a painful death and reawakening as a zombie).
  • I was confused earlier on because Thomas, Dan and Jennie were talking about the police not existing any more, and their family and friends possibly having become the walking dead, yet I thought the zombie they encountered in this house was supposed to be Patient Zero.  This is resolved to a certain extent, but at first I kept flicking back because I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.
  • Flashbacks are written in the present tense, which I don’t think worked.
  • Too much use of the present continuous: ‘the heat wave is going on’ and ‘the windows are sitting high’, instead of ‘the heat wave continues’ and ‘the windows sit high’, for instance, which would have read so much better; some of the sentences were a little flat or clumsy.
Basically, it’s a great idea and reads fairly well, but I think it needs some more redrafting and fine-tuning to live up to its potential.
Book description

The end of the world one day at a time

In this new apocalyptic zombie series from the author of They Come at Night and Human Flesh, we follow events day for day as the world slowly but surely decends into mayhem as the zombies take over. Don’t miss the thrilling ride!

For fans of The Walking Dead, The Orphans Book and World War Z.

How it all began

Three teenagers find themselves trapped in a stuffy, warm basement. The old lady who used to own the house is now dead. She’s also standing right on the other side of the basement door, scraping and moaning, trying to get in. Patiently. Tirelessly.

How did they end up here? Just a few hours ago, all three of of them were sitting in Thomas’ car, sweating and listening to music, not a care in the world. They were almost done with the paper route when they came to the old lady’s house. And that’s when everything turned to chaos.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Time Travel Adventure NEANDER by @AuthorHarald #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Neander by Harald Johnson

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4.5*
Tom Cook is a science journalist working on an archaeological dig in Gibraltar, when disaster strikes in the form of a boat accident—his pregnant fiancée is missing.  When Tom goes searching for her, he slips through a time portal that takes him back…. way back, to 40,000 years ago. Neanderthal man has yet to become extinct, though the threat of Homo Sapiens is on the horizon.
Tom finds ways to communicate with them and become part of their world.  Quite early on, I saw that this was not just a time travel adventure, and that Tom’s actions would have repercussions, which added interest, as I looked forward to finding out how great these would be.  Tom has a wealth of knowledge to teach his new family, and draws on his own research about Neanderthal man to find the best methods to help them, especially when they come face to face with the more ruthless Sapiens.
In the notes at the back, the author mentions having read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari; I’ve read three books by Harari and could feel the influence; I actually thought ‘ah, he’s been reading Sapiens’ a couple of times, before I read the notes, but this wasn’t a negative; I liked it.
Neander held my interest all the way through; of course time travel stories always depend on disbelief suspension on the part of the reader, but the fantasy must be believeable within the fiction, and for the most part this was; I’d give it about seven out of ten, because I needed to know more about how he communicated with these prehistoric people in order to be completely convinced by the fact that he did.  Also, I was so looking forward to finding out how Tom’s actions of 40K years ago impacted on the world we know now, but there was less detail than I’d hoped for.  On the whole, though, this book is fun and an easy read, an inventive, interesting and original story, as well as providing questions and ideas on which to ponder, which makes it a win-win as far as I’m concerned; yes, I recommend it!
Book description

“My God. These people really ARE Neanderthals!”

At an archeological dig in Gibraltar, a boat explosion shatters the hopes of science journalist Tom Cook. His pregnant fiancée was on the boat and is missing.
During the search, things go from bad to worse when Tom plunges through a time portal and into the strange and dangerous era of the Neanderthals. Can he get back, or is he stuck in the past forever?

On top of figuring out how to return to the present, Tom must use his modern-day wits to fight for survival in the world of 40,000 years ago. And contend with a group of archaic humans that are not at all like what he expects.
Finally, Tom faces a crucial decision that could alter the course of human history. A history he knows he has the power to change. Will he make the right choice?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of #NewRelease #HistoricalRomance LILIAN AND THE IRRESISTIBLE DUKE by @VirginiaHeath_

Lilian and the Irresistible Duke (Secrets of a Victorian Household)Lilian and the Irresistible Duke by Virginia Heath

4 stars

Lilian and the Irresistible Duke is book four in the Secrets of a Victorian Household series of historical romances. Each book in the series has been written by a different author, but the characters from each one are closely connected.

Lilian’s three grown-up children have persuaded her to take a well-deserved holiday away from The Fairclough Foundation, a safe haven for destitute women in London. Lilian is looking forward to her visit to Rome; it brings back memories of a secret but delightful kiss from Duke Pietro Venturi.

Pietro Venturi is surprised to bump into Lilian in his home. Knowing that she is a widow he suspects that his sister is trying to matchmake, but when Lilian insists that she is only looking for friendship he relaxes and instead delights in their joint love of art.

This romance involves characters who are older than many others in this genre, but there was still plenty of enticing ardour. I liked Lilian’s passion for art as seen from her unique perspective, and although I’m not generally an art lover, this book had me wanting to see some of the paintings that were mentioned.

This is a stand-alone book which can also be enjoyed as part of the series, or for those who might fall in love with Rome.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

A reunion in Rome… sparks an affair to remember!

Responsible widow Lilian Fairclough is persuaded to travel to Rome for a hard-earned break and to let down her hair! She’s surprised to be reunited with passionate, cynical Italian duke Pietro Venturi. He reawakens her sensual side and intrigues her with glimpses of pain beneath his rakish surface. Enticed into a secret and temporary affair, what will happen once she returns home?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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What is Tuesday Book Blog? How Can #BookBloggers And #Writers Benefit From Using It?

Why Is Tuesday Book Blog Important For Book Bloggers And Writers Alike?

Hashtags drive more traffic to your blog – many users of #TuesdayBookBlog report a regular weekly view count increase. How can you join in?
What is Tuesday Book Blog?
Most writers and bloggers know about the benefits of ‘blog share’ days, the first one of which was started by Rachel Thompson, with her fabulously successful #MondayBlogs.
In 2015, a few of us in Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) decided to start our own: #TuesdayBookBlog. Since then, it has proved to be a wonderful way for writers and book bloggers to share their posts, and it appears on the trending lists every week. Here’s how to get the best out of it:

 

DO post:

Basically, any blog posts about books and writing:

Book reviews – for your own books, people’s, or book reviews you’ve written on your blog.

Author Interviews

Cover reveals

Upcoming/new releases

Articles or guest posts about books/writers

Retweet others on the hashtag for best results!  Twitter works like any social media site; the more you share others’ posts, the more traction your own will receive.

DO NOT post:

Basically, anything that ISN’T a blog post about books or writing!

Book promotion with buy links

Any other sort of book promotion, motivational memes, etc

General tweets/pictures about writing and books.

Hardcore erotica (porn).

We hope you will achieve good results from #TuesdayBookBlog, and look forward to seeing you there!

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A New Year’s Cosy #Mystery DEATH ON THE DANUBE by @JSAauthor

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Death On The Danube by Jennifer S. Alderson.

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I am a great fan of Jennifer S. Alderson’s Adventures of Zelda Richardson books as I really enjoy the fast pace and wonderfully exotic locations that feature in this series. When this first book in Ms Alderson’s new cozy mystery series became available, I quickly snatched it up to see what this versatile author can do in this slightly different genre. I have recently visited Budapest, so I was also keen to see how this amazing city is featured in this book.

I was not disappointed, either with regards to the genre or the setting of Death on the Danube. As a cozy mystery, this book is shorter than the Zelda books and, as a result, the characters are not as fleshed out. this was not a problem for me as I still got a good feel for Lana, the recently divorced heroine, who finds herself unexpectedly dealing with a murder investigation instead of just assuming the new role of tour guide to a party of wealthy tourists. Lana was previously an investigative journalist and this experience comes in handy when Carl, her fellow tour guide, is found floating in the Danube.

This book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express as it had lots of interesting characters. The story dips into each potential suspects life and reveals enough tantalizing details about a few of them to make them a likely suspect and Lana must do some hard work to unravel their stories and how they fit into Carl’s messy life.

Carl was an interesting chap with his involved history of womanizing, gambling and misleading people in order to gain their financial support. He was likable enough for me to not entirely hate him and I felt rather bad about his untimely death even though he was a bit of a rotter.

The introduction of the travel element and virtual tour the author gives her readers separates this book from others in this genre and made it a really interesting read. The depictions of the tourist destinations were interesting and the descriptions of the food, tantalizing.

I would strongly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries and short murder mystery stories.

 

Book description

Who knew a New Year’s trip to Budapest could be so deadly? The tour must go on – even with a killer in their midst…

Recent divorcee Lana Hansen needs a break. Her luck has run sour for going on a decade, ever since she got fired from her favorite job as an investigative reporter. When her fresh start in Seattle doesn’t work out as planned, Lana ends up unemployed and penniless on Christmas Eve.

Dotty Thompson, her landlord and the owner of Wanderlust Tours, is also in a tight spot after one of her tour guides ends up in the hospital, leaving her a guide short on Christmas Day.

When Dotty offers her a job leading the tour group through Budapest, Hungary, Lana jumps at the chance. It’s the perfect way to ring in the new year and pay her rent!

What starts off as the adventure of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare when Carl, her fellow tour guide, is found floating in the Danube River. Was it murder or accidental death? Suspects abound when Lana discovers almost everyone on the tour had a bone to pick with Carl.

But Dotty insists the tour must go on, so Lana finds herself trapped with nine murder suspects. When another guest turns up dead, Lana has to figure out who the killer is before she too ends up floating in the Danube…

Introducing Lana Hansen, tour guide, reluctant amateur sleuth, and star of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Cosy Vintage #Mystery ROUGH TIME IN NUALA by @harrietsteel1

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been redaing Rough Time In Nuala by Harriet Steel

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Inspector Shanti de Silva and his wife Jane, were looking forward to an evening at the cinema but an unexpected telephone call from Doctor Hebden meant they had to cancel their plans. There had been a murder at the Royal Nuala Golf Club and de Silva’s presence is required immediately. The body of wealthy local business man and tea plantation owner, Bernard Harvey, had been discovered hidden in the rough by Doctor Hebden’s dog. His caddy was nowhere to be found.

The murder turns out to be a complicated case for de Silva, not least because he has to tread carefully in his dealings with the advantaged British. There seems to be no obvious motive and no possessions were taken but where was the caddy? De Silva’s superior, Archie Clutterbuck was entertaining important visitors and didn’t want a scandal. Luckily, de Silva had the help of Charlie Frobisher, a personable junior member of the Colonial staff. And as always, de Silva’s wife Jane is his sounding board, offering her own insightful suggestions.

I had to smile when Charlie Frobisher described the murder as ‘a nasty spot of bother’ and thought it seemed realistically typical of an understatement by an upper class Englishman of the time.

‘The remark demonstrated a notable British quality, thought de Silva: their unerring ability to minimise drama, even when, in most people’s view, the occasion would justifiably merit it.’

I always enjoy catching up with Shanti and Jane de Silva, and Harriet Steel brings 1930s Ceylon and its inhabitants to vibrant life, with descriptions of places, food and their home life.

It was interesting to note in this book that a little more attention was given to the prejudice issue facing the Sinhalese people as a direct result of British dominance. Additions such as this, plus the local customs and the fact the British make investigation that much more difficult, give more authenticity to the story.

‘He was aware that the club’s hallowed portals didn’t welcome locals like himself; the membership was exclusively British. Deep down, de Silva had to admit that even though he had no desire to play golf, he wasn’t entirely immune to feelings of resentment at being shunned in his own country.’

A lovely, easy to read cozy crime series.

Book description

Inspector de Silva’s peaceful evening is disrupted when he is called up to the Royal Nuala Golf Club where a wealthy member has been found brutally murdered.

Is this a bungled robbery, a private feud, or does the killer have another motive that will cause them to strike again?

With the help of his resourceful wife, Jane, and a new and unexpected ally, de Silva must navigate his way into the heart of the privileged British establishment to find the answer, and there’s no time to lose.

Rough Time in Nuala is another colourful and exciting mystery in this series set in the exotic location of 1930s Ceylon.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Of Mild #Thriller When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

4 stars

When Will There Be Good News is a mild thriller and the third book in the Jackson Brodie series.

The book opens with a brutal murder of a family where a six-year-old child is the only survivor. The story then jumps forward thirty years, where we are introduced to mother’s help Reggie, to Dr Hunter and her baby boy. We are also introduced to Louise, a Detective Chief Inspector who has become hardened by her years on the force and who struggles to hold down her personal relationships. Lastly, there is Jackson Brodie, an ex-policeman who becomes innocently involved with events in Edinburgh as they escalate around him.

Proceedings transpire to bring all of these characters together, but the story is not straightforward and it requires a good deal of concentration to keep up.

I’ve now read three books by this author, all of them quite different. Atkinson certainly stamps her own style on her writing. The internal dialogue and the multiple snippets of Latin and literature added layers to some of the characters, but I found it quite exhausting to read. However, I was still intrigued enough by the storyline to continue reading and was eager to see how it would all end.

Overall, a good story but I didn’t completely fall in love with the mode of the writing.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason’s family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna’s life is changed forever…

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound…

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Historical Spy #Thriller DARK STAR by Alan Furst #TuesdayBookBlog

Dark StarDark Star by Alan Furst

4 stars

Dark Star is an historical fiction spy thriller set in Europe between 1937 and 1940.

As Europe struggles to avoid another war, we meet André Szara, a Russian journalist recruited by a Soviet secret intelligence agency and placed in Paris. He enlists the owner of a factory in Berlin which supplies crucial parts for Germany’s war-planes and sends the monthly production figures back to Moscow. However, he’s never sure if the agent has been compromised and if his figures can be trusted.

Any good spy thriller will be complex and the mix of Russian and German intelligence agencies added extra layers to the story. With an intricate plot, this book needed my full concentration to keep up with the secrets. I liked how Furst painted a harsh picture of life, showing just how precarious and precious it can be.

The story uses Szara’s journalist cover to send him across Europe and I particularly enjoyed the parts that took place in Poland and later when he went off-grid. The horrors of war and life felt very real and it was easy to understand how people grabbed at moments of happiness in the insanity which went on all around.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Andre Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars, is a journalist working for Pravda in 1937. War in Europe is already underway and Szara is co-opted to join the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence agency. He does his best to survive the tango of pre-war politics by calmly obeying orders and keeping his nose clean. But when he is sent to retrieve a battered briefcase the plot thickens and is drawn into even more complex intrigues.

Szara becomes a full-time spymaster and as deputy director of a Paris network, he finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. DARK STAR captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A #Mystery Set In China. The Willow Woman, a Philip Ye Novel by @LWestwoodAuthor

Today’s team review is from Joanna.

#RBRT Review Team

Joanna has been reading The Willow Woman by Laurence Westwood

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4.5 stars.

This is the first in a planned series of books featuring Philip Ye, a Chinese homicide detective.  The protagonist has a chequered past; he is a widower, half English and half Chinese, and his father is the disgraced ex-Mayor of Chengdu. Willow Woman focuses on a missing vulnerable boy and a body found in a back alley; two mysteries Ye tries to unravel against a highly political backdrop.

It is beautifully written, highly evocative of modern china and pulls no punches in exploring the cultural, political and spiritual elements of Chinese society.  The plot itself is pleasingly complex and well-paced and I found myself burning the midnight oil, unable to put it down.

When I opened the book I was greeted by an extensive cast list of Chinese names which almost put me off, however Laurence Westwood breathes life into each of the  main characters and they jump off the page and into your imagination: there’s the  enigmatic Philip Ye; the deeply flawed and beautiful Prosecutor, Xu Ya; Fatty Deng her investigator and seriously oddball Constable Ma.

If there is any criticism, it is that the author occasionally overplays his knowledge of the Chinese political and criminal justice systems making for the occasional stodgy passages. Having said that I loved it and look forward to the next in the series.

Did I enjoy it, Yes

Would I recommend it, Yes.

Would I read it again, Yes.

Book description

Chengdu: a teeming, modern metropolis.

Yet China’s painful turbulent history still leaves its mark on the minds of all who live there.

Philip Ye, half English, half Chinese, is a homicide detective with the Chengdu Public Security Bureau who suffers his own anguish from a life blighted by tragedy and the unsettling appearance of ghosts that often intrude in on his investigations.

On a misty grey morning one such apparition leads him to a busy street corner during the rush hour where he bears witness to a shocking event. Against his better judgment, Phillip is drawn into the search for a missing, vulnerable boy. His investigation brings him into contact with Xu Ya, a brilliant and beautiful public prosecutor. She is new to Chengdu, determined not only to make her mark but to also leave behind her own personal heartbreak. They have crossed paths before. He has no memory of her, but she remembers him very well indeed….

Soon enough Philip Ye has a vicious murder on his hands, and then another – the boy’s disappearance seemingly sparking a chain of violent events. With the help of Xu Ya – dedicated to upholding făzhì, the Rule of Law, in China ‒ and her indefatigable and worldly-wise assistant Fatty Deng, Phillip Ye is quickly on the trail of a mysterious figure known as The Willow Woman. But, unbeknownst to them all, there are secretive and subversive forces at work within the dark heart of the city and tremendous danger awaits….

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Re-Post Authors Reviewing Authors (It’s a Minefield) #WritingCommunity #AmWriting #AmReading

Authors reviewing authors

(it’s a minefield…) Guest post by Terry Tyler

Reviewing advice

 

The scenario: you’re a self-published/indie press published writer who tweets, blogs and is a generally active member of the online writer community. You like to read and review the work of writer friends, if in a genre that appeals. One of these friends (who I will call Friendly Writer and refer to as ‘he’, for convenience), asks you to review his new book, via an ARC. The blurb piques your interest; you say yes. You start to read, with enthusiasm—but there’s a problem. Several of them. The dialogue is unrealistic, the characters are one-dimensional, or tired stereotypes. Maybe the plot is unconvincing, or it’s a bit slow/long-winded/badly researched. If it was a random book by a stranger, you’d abandon it.

If you’ve been active in the online writer community for a while, this might be a situation you’ve already faced. Friendly Writer is expecting a review from you. So do you take the easy way out? Say what a great read it is, and give it 5*?

Do you decide that it’s best to … lie?

Most writers have, at some point, been less than totally frank when reviewing. We think about ourselves in the same situation; sometimes, being kind is more important than brutal honesty. But there are several levels of diplomatic possibility between ‘This guy needs to find a new hobby’, and ‘This is a superb novel by a talented writer, highly recommended!’

Before I get to the helpful hints, though, let’s look at why some authors give dishonest reviews—and why they shouldn’t.

5 reasons why authors give glowing 5* reviews they don’t mean:

  • Because they’re kind. They don’t want to hurt Friendly Writer’s feelings, and would like to give a boost to the book he’s worked so hard on.
  • Because they don’t want to face the possible hassle that might follow an honest review; easier just to provide the required positive one.
  • Because Friendly Writer has given them a 5*, or been generally supportive about their work, and they feel they ‘owe’ him the same.
  • Because other reviewers have been complimentary, and they feel under pressure to agree (‘is it just me?’).
  • Because their own new release is imminent, and they think that if they dole out the 5*, they will be reciprocated.  NB: this might involve not actually reading the whole book…

5 reasons why they shouldn’t:

  • It misleads the reading public.  All over Amazon, you can find reviews that say, ‘I don’t understand the high ratings; was I reading a different book?’, and ‘I bought this based on all the great reviews, and I wasted my money’. Think about it. If you’d stayed at a hotel where you received only mediocre service, would you label it ‘excellent’ on TripAdvisor?  Review a faulty electrical appliance with ‘5*, a great buy’?
  • Many people consider most Amazon reviews to be fake, purchased, written by friends or just generally ill-informed. If you write dishonest reviews, you become part of this problem, which affects us all.
  • The misleading review doesn’t do much for your own credibility. If you say a book is brilliant, when it has wooden dialogue and a dodgy plot, potential readers may think your own work won’t be so great, either.
  • It makes the glowing 5* that you really do mean count for nothing. Who can tell the difference?
  • It doesn’t do Friendly Writer any favours, in the long run.

Remember: Amazon book department is not a cosy writing group for the encouragement of aspiring authors. It is an online shop where the reading public spend money.

Writing tips

Practical problems

Sometimes, your complaint about the book may just be that it needs a better proofread. This is not a criticism of the writing itself, but a practical problem that can be fixed, as is an issue with formatting. A couple of times I’ve started to read friends’ books that were otherwise very good but had considerably more than the acceptable few proofreading errors.  I emailed to tell them, so they could amend if they wanted to, or instruct their publisher to do so. Recently, I read a terrific book with one glaring continuity error that the editor had missed; I let the author know. She was really pleased I had. With regard to the proofreading, I also listed some of the errors I’d found.

But what if the problems are not so easily fixed?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write the honest review but show it to Friendly Writer before you post it, and ask him if he’d rather you didn’t.
  • Concentrate only on the elements about the book that you did like, and give it 3*, or 4*, depending on the good/bad ratio.  For instance, it might have lousy characterisation but wonderful scene setting. Or a plot full of holes, but delightful dialogue. Contrary to some opinion, 3* is not a bad review; it means ‘it’s okay’ on Amazon, and ‘I liked it’ on Goodreads. I find 3.5* very useful; you can then round up or down. Or up on Amazon and down on Goodreads, as they mean different things.
  • Give 3* and review objectively rather than personally, by saying what the book is about and who might enjoy it. For instance, if it’s a zany chick lit book, give a brief summary of the plot and say something like ‘If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, this might be one for you’. Just because a book made you wince, other readers might not be so discerning. For instance, my ‘deal breakers’ are bad grammar, lack of historical research, consistent bad punctuation, unrealistic dialogue, and characters undergoing sudden, unexplained personality changes to fit the plot. Others might not mind or even notice these things. Recently, I read a basically good book with punctuation errors on every page. Out of over 30 reviews, only a handful of others mentioned them.
  • Do nothing. This is actually not as much of a cop out as it sounds. When I published The Devil You Know, I submitted it to lots of book bloggers who had never read me before. Of all those who agreed to take it, two never reviewed. I just assumed they didn’t like it much. Friendly Writer will probably make the same assumption about your own lack of response, and thus save you both embarrassment.

What if you haven’t taken an ARC, but have bought the book and feel obliged to review because of your online friendship?

  • Say and do nothing. See above.
  • Do not mark the book as ‘Currently Reading’ on Goodreads, or tweet that you are reading it, until you have read 20% and are sure you like it enough to continue.
  • If Friendly Writer asks, say you’re sorry, but you weren’t that interested in the subject matter/it wasn’t quite what you were expecting. It’s likely that he will accept this with dignity; in my experience, writers who throw their toys out of the pram every time someone fails to express awe at their brilliance are few and far between. Thank goodness.
  • Be aware of Friendly Writer’s feelings, and imagine yourself in the same position before launching into an detailed critique; if asked, mention the aspects you liked but say that you had some issues with other areas, and do not expand unless invited to. He may already be aware of the book’s weaknesses. 

Any of these suggestions is better than writing dishonest, misleading reviews.

Lastly, if your lack of a glowing 5* results in Friendly Writer getting shirty with you, put it down to experience, and move on; if he gets upset because you are not willing to lie about his book, then perhaps his apparent ‘friendship’ was really nothing more than networking …