Reviewing the Written Word

In today’s world, individuality is touted and thinking for oneself is encouraged in most cultures. But, when it comes to making a choice for ourselves, most still like to hear opinions from others. Or, in today’s age of cyberspace, they want to read about their options.

5-Star_rating_system_PCAR_01Very little people nowadays will visit a retail site and click on the “Proceed to Checkout” button without first reading the provided revues of said product. The amount of 5-star ratings more often than not makes the consumer’s decision for them. Let’s face it, when having to choose between two similar items, going with the one more people like just makes sense.

This is also true in the book industry. You’ll hear about the die-hard readers who go to book stores and read a few pages before opting for a volume. Most on-line book outlets give you that same option, letting you read a preview. I will proudly admit I am one of these. You can tell if the story will interest you with a quick scan of a paragraph or two.

But what if you’re picking up a novel for someone else? What if that person prefers to read in a genre you would rather not know even exists? Let’s face it. Some readers would prefer to forget there was ever a Twilight, while others will hunt me down to pay for this slander. Personally, I find Stephenie Meyer‘s plot twist illogical and detrimental to the story, no matter how well she writes.  But other members of my family love her books, so I would still buy her novels as gifts.

It’s in these situations when I would rely on revues. Not knowing which volume to pick, I would let the masses guide me. Many do this, as well, when they just want to read the latest best seller. Sometimes all you know is you want a thriller. You don’t care who wrote it or whether it contains vampires or not. In this case, it makes sense to go for the book liked by the most amount of readers.

And that’s why we have reviews!

2301723_sPart of my previous blog dealt with book reviews. I was always open to trading opinions. I know, many disapprove of authors swapping works for revues. A lot of novelists abused the system, using each other to boost their ratings. I never took part in that sort of scam. The authors I worked with knew exactly where I stood. I wanted an honest revue from them, and I would give them the same. I wasn’t looking for a perfect rating. If they didn’t like the story, I wanted them to say so. And they knew I would do the same.

I neglected my blog shortly after that, so I didn’t revue that many books. In the next few posts, I will share those reviews again. Most of these stories are worth the read and deserve the reminder they are still out there, available to the masses. I’m sure the authors won’t mind the extra exposure.

Before we get to those, however, I feel I should explain how I rate the stories. Many sites use different methods and scales, so a 4-star review from on site could mean something totally different than a 4 out of 5 rating somewhere else.

This is how I work:

First, I need to emphasize I rate novels on readability. The important thing is the story, the flow of events and how the author manages to keep my attention. Syntax and grammatical errors only register with me if they detract from the tale. I will not call out a writer for their use of the passive voice, unless it makes me put the book down. I won’t, like, you know, say anything about, well, using the totally unnecessary filler words that dramatically slows down the 10232322_salready languishing pace of the story, like in this sentence, unless it happens way too often. I do not teach the English language and will not pretend to know all the obscure rules nobody seems to follow any more. I’m looking for a narrative that captivates the reader, forcing them to turn one more page despite their need to put the book down.

On this blog, I use the expected 5-point system. Each score designates a specific opinion on the book, as follows:

  1. Did Not Finish — The novel was so bad I put it down without getting to the last page. I loath not finishing what I start, so it takes a lot for me to give up on a story. You should not see many 1’s, but if you do, I strongly suggest to keep away.
  2. Would Not Recommend — Though able to read the entire story, it did nothing to impress me. My copy of this book would be on the list to donate. It would have no place in my personal library. It would not be mentioned when someone asks me what I think they should read next.
  3. An Okay Story — I know a 3 out of 5 doesn’t look that good, but these stories still have some gems scattered through the pebbles. Novels in this categories are those I enjoyed reading, but would most likely not read again. There was something missing, and sometimes it will be so subtle I can’t put my finger on it. The novel may be interesting while I read it, but not enough that I will want to read it again. I might still suggest these books to someone I think would enjoy them.
  4. Excellent Book! — Captivating stories and exciting climaxes get you in this category. These are the tales I will talk about to like-minded readers. There will be minor glitches I dislike, but nothing too glaring to detract from the overall awesomeness of the narrative. These books will find their way onto my shelves, either physical or electronic.
  5. Oh My God! Perfection! — Rarely will I give this rating. When I say perfection, I mean perfection (in my opinion). There has to be nothing in the novel I wish to change. These are the stories you wish to pick up again, even if you just finished reading them a week ago. Not only will these books grace my shelves, I’ll be looking for a second, signed copy, to lock away in a display case.

That, in a nutshell, is how it works here. You will see the structure of my reviews when I post the first one in a few days. I have rambled on long enough to bore you with those details.

I will offer myself to authors out there who wish to have their books reviewed. Simply get in touch with me through my website, MarcLabelle.com. Or send me a private message using Facebook or Twitter.

Spread the word!

And the Spam Flows

mGQB83QI had hoped there was something wrong with my old blog. I had hoped that problem would remain behind when I started this version from scratch. It seems I was wrong.

It did take them a little over a week to find me. That should bring me a bit of comfort. But it doesn’t. I wanted to avoid the problem all together.

I’m talking about spammers. Those robots or dedicated individuals who search the cyber-highways for places to plant their seeds. They are trying to sow the weeds of links back to their websites selling this or that product. Most of them don’t even try that hard to conceal what they’re doing. Did you really think I would miss a comment like this:

As a way of stolpping parallax error, some extents have an adjustable
objective.

Yes, that is exactly how they wrote it. I will never edit quotes (unless it’s to shorten them, but I will use the proper form when doing so). And then they proceed to add a link to their own blog, tagging it:

best rifle scope under 500

I try my best  to get as many of the facts before accusing anyone of anything. So I looked up “parallax error” to see what they were talking about. It has to do with the apparent position of objects when viewed from different lines of sight. I did take physics in high school. It was in French and over 20 years ago, so please forgive me for forgetting the concept. But this research supports the fact this message is about rifle scopes, and not my post.

Needless to say, these comments will never see the light of a backlit screen on this blog. I have no doubt they will still try. I just hope they don’t swarm me. I still shudder when I relive my previous experience with this. With every message I designated as spam, two more showed up–within minutes!

The Akismet plugin that comes standard with blogs powered by WordPress catches some of this spam, but not near enough to my liking. I have no doubt paying subscribers get better results, but that’s just an expense I’m not ready to dish out at the moment.

Of course, I welcome any comments coming from real people, with opinions on this matter. Maybe you know of a plugin that works better. Maybe you have a trick to keep the robots away.

But remember:

NO SOLICITING

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A New Beginning

Back in the Saddle Again

I’ve been away from blogging for awhile. Too many things going on to distract me. That, and I’m a constant sucker who falls for the wiles of procrastination. But I have an urge, and I will indulge it. Let’s see how long that lasts.

This sudden resurgence came with my desire to update my website. The creative juices started flowing, now that I was focussing on something else. For the past few weeks, I have been mired in the editing process of my second novel. Add to that a challenge from a friend to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, it was a nice change to move away from the creation of a story.

The “Joys” of Simple Tasks 

So with renewed fervour, I finish polishing the new version of MarcLabelle.com, and that’s when the frustration starts. My hosting provider proved to be as unreliable as it’s ever been. The months since my last attempt to alter my site were not enough to temper my disappointment in their inadequacies. I did what any sensible disgruntled customer would do: I kicked them to the curb.

FrustratedOf course, they had to kick me in the shins as a last goodbye. They were courteous and  prompt with their replies, but I had to drag the work out of them. A simple transfer of a domain name turned into four days of me acting as the middle man between the two companies, getting the information for the new provider while demanding the needed information from the old one. All I wanted was one email stated everything was done. But that clearly was too much to ask.

I know my limitations, and I know what I am capable of. I am confident enough in my knowledge to create and upload my own websites. I’ve done it before. I also added my old blog without too much trouble. But it seems transferring said blog is beyond my skills. The old version somehow got lost in the shuffle. I know it’s out there somewhere, but I have already spent two days trying to get it done. I’m not attached enough to it to worry about it any longer. My last post was over a year ago. I’m sure no one will miss it.

So What Now?

Basically, here I am, starting over from scratch. I had a few pages and features I liked, so I will be adding them to this version. The rest will be new, however.

I geared my first blog toward the topic of writing. Despite not having a degree in English, or any formal training, I could convey what I have learned during my journey to publishing my first novel, Knightfall. I will still relay those nuggets I have unearthed, but they will not be the focus of Version 2.0. You will read about other trials and tribulations of mine, which may not necessarily have to do with the writing process. I might voice my opinion on how funny it is to see all these people reacting to what happened to Jon Snow (read the books and you won’t be so taken aback!). I might say something about wishing writers in Hollywood going back to actually writing a plot, instead of hashing out a movie that has already been done a couple of times. But if you’re looking for a theme, there will be one. I’m a fantasy and supernatural nut, so I will most likely gear my posts toward those genres.

I have also read a few articles on how these entries should be written. The content need to be engaging…it needs to be fairly short to more easily keep readers’ interest…and don’t forget to add pictures…and headings…and always ask the readers for their input…things like that.

I will turn this site into somewhat of a personal journal for me. I needed to vent my frustration regarding the transfer of my website, so I did.

Will the entries remain short so the readers can move on to something else fairly quickly? Just look at this post. I will write as long as I need to. If I feel like posting a novella, I will. Actually, I won’t. I’ll keep those for publication. But I won’t restrict my ranting to conform to proper blog etiquette, or mere guidelines. You can lift your chin up, though. Most of what I’ll post won’t be this long.

Will this be considered engaging content? Maybe. I’m sure someone out there has gone through a similar situation and will be gratified in knowing they’re not alone.

Will I keep adding pictures and headings? The pictures, probably, but the headings might be less of a staple. I won’t make either of them a focus, however. I reserve the right to not use any.

And asking for people’s comments, well, that might be something that falls to the wayside. I value the opinion of others, but I’m the type of person that doesn’t like asking for it. I will end my posts the way that feels right to me. That might mean there won’t be an invitation for you to weigh in. But know that I always accept comments, or even criticism. So, if I happen to not direct you to fill in those fields at the bottom of the post, do remember you are free to do so. Call me out on anything I say, or elaborate on a point I made. That’s what these blogs are for–to engage the reader.

Welcome Back!

So here is the beginning of the next stage of this site. I can’t promise when I’ll be seeing you again, but I have enough of an itch it won’t be too long.

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