Reviewing the book or the author?

A few weeks ago there was a great comment on Jessewave’s site from an “anonymous author” who claimed to be solely print published but found that reviews criticized authors more than the actual work they are reviewing. I remember reading the comment thinking that it was a great point and in typical fashion, something shiny flashed near me and I forgot about it.

I was reminded of the comment when reading the entire time wasting but OH SO fascinating debacle of the plagiarist Cassandra Clare (check it out here. It’s long but I couldn’t stop reading. Thank you sean kennedy by way of emmyjag). Anyway, somewhere along the way an author I respected posted on an amazon.com review of CC’s printed work that the reviewer was blasting the author when it should be the book.

This reminded me that I thought this was a great point and so I bring it here to my five readers (I gained one!). How often when either reviewing or even casually talking about books do we equate the book with the author?

It’s an excellent point that I think we, as readers in general, before even getting into reviewing, need to separate the work from the author. The book can be total crap but that means nothing about the author. If the mystery is bad, that doesn’t mean the author is lazy or ignorant. It means they poorly wrote that aspect. Perhaps the ending is ridiculous and stupid, but that’s the –story- not the author. I tend to use the two synonymously in both casual conversation and reviews. It’s a habit I try to break unless I’m specifically addressing the author or referring to them for a reason, but I admit, it’s an ongoing vice I must actively remind myself not to do.

Now, I can say to any authors I’ve done this to – I apologize and meant the work! But how often do readers do this? Does a bad book really affect how you view the author? Does the book itself change your view of an author?

On that note, I remember reading a book and although it was a m/m romance, I had the distinct impression the author is homophobic. How can I infer that? I guess I didn’t find the “jokes” funny or the comments amusing, but instead purposefully insulting. I definitely equated the book with the author. Right or wrong, I had that strong impression.


What about other readers?
Do you tend to make assumptions and judgments of authors based on their work?
As reviewers, do you review the author as much as the book?

Bring the Heat by ML Rhodes

Bring the Heat by ML Rhodes


Blurb:
Police Detective Riley Ellison has a new habit … stopping by a coffeehouse called the Java Pit on his way to work. The coffee’s good, but it’s not the rich flavor that lures him to drive blocks out of his way each morning, and it’s not an addiction to caffeine either. He’s half-embarrassed to admit it, but it’s the man who keeps him coming back. The long-legged, painted-on-jeans-wearing, dark-haired, edgy sex god with the teasing eyes. He’s everything Riley ~ who has a history of geekdom and being flustered around hot men ~ is not. Riley knows he should put a stop to the daily forays because nothing can ever come of it. Guys like that aren’t interested in men like him. Yet every time the hunk meets his gaze across the crowded shop and aims a sizzling grin at him, Riley gives in and comes back to participate in the silent, sexy flirtation another day. Needless to say, the last thing he’s expecting when he goes to question a witness about a murder at a local gay strip joint is to discover the witness is his coffeehouse hottie.

Dane Scott works as a stripper strictly for fun. He doesn’t need the money ~ he’s got plenty in the bank from his other career. He just likes to have something to keep him busy a few nights a week. When one of his fellow dancers turns up murdered outside the strip club, the police detective who shows up on Dane’s doorstep asking questions is none other than the sexy, blond cutie he’s been flirting with at the coffeehouse for weeks. Riley Ellison’s a fascinating contradiction ~ rugged, strong, serious-eyed hero and bashful boy next door. A combination Dane finds all too appealing and a refreshing change from the selfish, shallow men he’s known and dated in the past. From the moment Riley flashes his badge, Dane’s determined to show the skittish cop they can make magic together.

The heat between them quickly soars to the boiling point and not even a murder investigation can cool the passion they share. That is, until new information on Riley’s case implies Dane may not be all he seems.

 

should be called bring the meat..

A Triskaide collection by Steve Berman

 Trysts: A Triskaide collection Of Queer And Weird Stories by Steve Berman 

Blurb:

Steve Berman has assembled his most compelling stories of trysts that range from the eerie to the horrifying to the wondrous. Cut and paste a voodoo doll made of magazine clippings: watch as a ouija board spells out your deepest secret…mourn the loss of your boyfriend while awaiting his ghost… listen to the ancient whisperings of a threadbare flapper dress…gamble for more than money on a Southern riverboat…renounce your citizenship to walk through a restricted area, rife with magic. Experience passion and loss, all within the pages of this triskaide collection – thirteen stories where the supernatural is as likely to doom as to save those that are drawn to its power. Trysts offers readers dark and quirky tales from a distinctive new voice in gay fiction.

 

Another creepy, fascinating collection..

New Rainbow Reviews

 New Rainbow Reviews! I’ve been so busy with life, family, and work that I haven’t read much lately. I know – there’s always time for books. However, not so much some times. But this week in RR was a lot of fun because most of the books were gay fiction without a lot of erotica. I love my smut (who doesn’t) but the change of pace has been great. I’m leaving off one review as there is some debate about it but here are the others:

 

Brushback by Jamie Scofield

White Flag by Thom Lane

Dark Angels by Pam Keesey (editor)

Outland by Kiernan Kelly

Outland by Kiernan Kelly

Blurb:
Living on the down low in their small Bible Belt town is just a fact of life for Hank and Beaver, two lovers who’ve been together for twenty-five years. They’ve always kept to themselves, careful not to make waves, particularly since their town is home to an infamous anti-gay preacher and his rabid congregation, who go out of their way to make sure that not one queer stone is unturned, including the only gay bar within a hundred miles.

When small town bigotry forces them out of the closet they’ve shared for a quarter century, they find their love, their friends, and their very lives in jeopardy. Everything spirals out of control until at last, backs to the wall, Hank and Beaver choose to fight back. From the betrayal of friends to outright violence, they’re not sure if they’ll survive the war with their hides ~ and their love ~ intact.

Sometimes, a bar is more than just a building. Sometimes, it’s a belief.

Review:

Let me first say that I still dislike the cover. I’m sorry! I still think it’s hideous with a dead bird nailed to a board with garish letters. I now realize the significance and it relates to the story very well but there are many other ways of doing this cover well sadly. But if you’re like me and are turned off by the dead bird on the cover, I can suggest you move beyond it and get to the story because it’s really good. This is a solid story that involves numerous issues including bigotry, homosexuality, small towns, life partnerships, betrayal, and standing up for the right to love. The story is bittersweet, beautiful, and full of colloquial affectations that give a certain flavor to the characters and dialogue. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the book but have to say that Hank and Beaver won me over in spite of the nickname Beaver. If you’re interested in an emotionally complicated story dealing with hard issues and no easy answers, then this well crafted tale will satisfy.

The story is about a long time couple, Hank and Beaver, who live in a small backward town in the Bible belt. Together these men decide to open a gay bar in their horse barn to give folks a place to gather and just be themselves. Predictably, the local clergy and devoted Christians aren’t happy and have no limits to their hatred. The real tension comes in two forms. First, the actions of the townspeople and how the couple and their close friends handle the problems. Second, whether Hank and Beaver should just leave and avoid the issues or if it’s more important to stay and fight regardless of the outcome and cost.

The book starts off slow with an unnecessary prolog. While it sets up the scene and gives an advance look at the events to come, all the information given in the prolog is repeated within the first few chapters. This repetition of information slows the pace and flow of the story initially and takes a bit for the real action to occur. Once you get by this though, the story becomes thoroughly engaging with a believable tension and gripping intensity. Some of the actions and choices are predictable and inevitable but that doesn’t take away from the story at all. In fact, it adds to the sense of foreboding that slowly builds chapter by chapter. The pace is very clever in never creating too much action at any one time, instead giving a cooling period after each significant event allowing the reader to recover from an emotional high while maintaining an uneasy, unresolved tension.

The story is told in first person point of view from Beaver’s perspective. He is a strong enough character and personality to hold the story, even though I truly hate that nickname. As a couple Hank and Beaver are wonderful to watch, both devoted and loving showing the affects of age and health problems on a passionate relationship. There are a few odd aspects such as their open relationship with Fargo and the out of character choices to keep details from each other, but on the whole it is a solid depiction of a couple in their fifties. They may not have the recovery time of younger men, but their love and passion fill any missing problems. The friendships created with their cast of friends adds texture and depth to the various characters and helps develop a well rounded story.

Although this story is a solid tale with several complex elements and a lot of action, there are a few dropped details. Some of the antagonists are more stereotypes of characters than unique personalities and their actions slightly over the top super-evil. Even the motivation of the Preacher felt forced and unrealistic. Additionally some storylines are ignored and never resolved along with the almost overwhelming affectations in the writing. These help give a texture and feel to the characters and story that fits the image of a small, backwater town where living in the closet is a must not an option. This kind of southern, cut off speech helps the story but is distracting at times and slightly overwhelming to the actual writing. This is unlikely to turn off any readers however and those fans of the author should be familiar with this style.  For example:

See, Meridian is a real small town, only a half-spit bigger than a wide spot in the single, two-lane highway that passes through Haggerty County on its way to somewhere else. It’s a pimple stuck right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt’s ass, not even big enough to be a dot on a map. Folks here live in old, tired houses that seen their best days back before the First World War. Got us some even older homes, too, a few newer, and all of them scattered over acres of hardscrabble land. Other folk make do with trailers, mostly singles with a few doublewides thrown in here and there. Everywhere you look, you find hard-working folk who earn a living on hourly pay, people who know how to pinch a penny until it screams good and loud.

Overall, I really liked the story and was swept up in the drama and problems presented. Although the prose ran a little long with some unappealing but very familiar lines from the author, this shows an older couple can be just as attractive as those sexy twinks. Well crafted with incredible, believable tension and a solid story involving engaging, interesting characters will have you not wanting to put the story down.

Get it HERE

Embers by Tory Temple

Embers by Tory Temple

Blurb:

Embers picks up where Tory Temple’s best-selling book, Tinder, leaves off, with the relationship Chris and Morgan have built becoming strained around the edges. Chris can’t understand it, and he’s not sure what’s going on, but Morgan is becoming distant and secretive. Chris can’t help but suspect the worst.

Morgan doesn’t know how to explain what’s going on, so he doesn’t, creating an awkwardness and strain that might be hard to fix. Can Chris find a way to make Morgan explain what’s going on without losing the man he’s come to love?

 

 

Review:

This is a sequel from an earlier story involving Morgan and Chris from the book Tinder. That book had its moments for sure since the main character of Morgan was uncompromising and rigid. When Embers came out, there were mixed reviews but mostly negative as reviewer after reviewer remarked on the unflattering and unappealing personality of Morgan. When one of the main characters is off-putting to the general reading audience, the book is a hard sell. In this case, the general opinion that the story is unsuccessful is sadly true. This is not a romance, and frankly I fail to see what is romantic between one half of the relationship constantly taking scorn and abuse and “letting it go” for… good sex maybe. 

I had my reservations about these two, as Morgan was a disagreeable character in the first book. I looked forward to a sequel though when the reason Chris stays becomes more evident. Perhaps Morgan will actually show emotion and perhaps a nice word to Chris, perhaps Chris will explain why he puts up with the demeaning, derogatory attitude of Morgan’s. I was honestly willing to give both the author and characters the benefit of the doubt and understand their choices. Instead, this is another example of Morgan being inexcusably rude and hurtful and Chris forgiving everything, including lying and betrayal, just to stay with Morgan.

The character of Chris is so weak and co-dependent it is uncomfortable to read. His need to accept Morgan’s poor behavior, dismissive attitude, and lack of any positive influence is painful.  The brief shinning moment where Chris shows some intelligence and emotional strength is soon ignored in the face of his dependence on Morgan. Chris is not a bad character nor is his weakness unappealing, it is more uncomfortable and unfortunate. If he had a decent partner in a loving relationship, he could thrive and lavish love and attention on a deserving mate. Instead he chooses someone who repeatedly demeans and scorns him, his choices, his job, and his passions. It’s sad and says nothing positive about either man.

Morgan is an ass and frankly, he likes it that way so either Chris adapts or leaves. Never once in the entire story does Morgan bend, compromise, or even utter a single positive, nice thing to Chris until the end. At the very end after Morgan has lied, betrayed, and crushed any hope of trust between the two men, he unbends enough to admit he wants to be with Chris. Rather big of Morgan to go that far while admitting he thought he was in love with the ex he lied about going to see. If Chris hadn’t caught Morgan in the lie, he would have seen no reason not to continue to lie and betray his lover of two years due to his own selfish needs and wants. He experiences no regret, no shame, and no sorrow about his actions – only that he was caught. No doubt, this will be a pattern to their unhealthy relationship.

The story attempts several times to address Morgan’s actions but show they are acceptable. Even Chris’ friend councils him to let it go and just deal with an asshole partner. Like that is a healthy way to act in a relationship but apparently it is for firemen. So Morgan is forgiven repeatedly for never supporting Chris or even showing him an ounce of affection, other than when Morgan wants sex. Morgan is allowed to lie, betray, and generally treat Chris like an ignorant child. Morgan says at various times:

 

"I know, Mr. Matthews." Morgan’s gray eyes were calm as he watched Chris grab his keys from the counter. "And you would think that after two years together, you’d try to be less sensitive."

"Less sensitive." Chris blinked. "That’s how you think we should solve the problem? By me ignoring you when you’re a dick?" 

Morgan leaned back and took off his glasses. "Sure. I ignore you when you’re being one."

—-

"What’s the password? ‘Chris has a big dick’?"

"Close. Substitute ‘is’ for ‘has’ and you’ve got it. I have to go, I’ll be home early." Morgan disconnected, and Chris would bet a large sum of money that he turned his phone off, too.

—-

Things clicked into place, although Chris didn’t want them to. Morgan’s more argumentative-than-usual episodes. His reluctance to give Chris his laptop password. It made sense now, but making sense of it seemed to be just as confusing as anything else.

Chris swallowed. "You … you couldn’t take me? You couldn’t tell me?"

Morgan looked up, exhaustion and sorrow written into the lines of his mouth and eyes. But sorrow for what? For hurting Chris, or for his dying lover? "I didn’t want to.”

—-

Morgan smiled and offered Chris a kiss. "You’re easy to get along with."  

"One of us has to be."

Unfortunately I found the entire story unappealing and unattractive. The individual men have enough problems that make a relationship virtually impossible. Morgan, especially, is not equipped to be with another person as his inherently selfish nature will make him incapable of compromise or affection. Why the author chose to portray such archetypes in a romance novel is baffling. Besides the fact that these types of men no doubt exist, who wants to read about them in an escapist romance story? I certainly don’t want to read about a dismissive, scornful man who is above everyone and everything in the guise of romance. For me, there is nothing romantic or attractive and I’d much rather spend my money on well-crafted, intricate characters that appeal in their flaws. That of course is my choice and unfortunately I’m starting to question whether I’ll continue with the author. Decide for yourselves as always.

Get it here!