Tuesday, July 11, 2006

RT Reviews Immortal Lovers

Immortal Lovers got a three star review from Romantic Times Magazine! The reviewer, Sarah Wethern, called it "distinctly biteable" [which I think is good?] and had this to say about Fresh Blood:

Surprising twists and an interesting take on vampire lore makes "Fresh Blood" by Colgan the redeeming story in this anthology.

Hopefully that will entice some readers to pick it up. Especially those who enjoy vampire stories.

I have to admit, I don't pay much attention to the three, four and four and a half star reviews [not too many fives in there!]. Honestly, and this may sound odd, but I read the two and one star reviews first. Why? Not because I want to know which books to stay away from, but because I'm more interested in what doesn't work. What makes a book a pass for a reader?

Granted these books have all been published, so an editor and maybe even an agent liked them enough to stand behind them. Then a reviewer comes along and dishes the real dirt on the story. While I know, a review is merely an opinion and what one person pans another will love, I find it informative to see what gets low grades. I know what makes a book a winner: endearing characters, smooth writing, a believable plot [even if it's sci-fi or paranormal], flowing action, steamy sex or heart rending emotional conflict. Easy to list these things, harder to actually make them happen. Call me crazy but I want to know where writers go wrong and I find I learn a lot from reading the Pass On This One and Problematic reviews. They tell me that readers don't want plots that are convoluted and overly complicated. They can't stand whiney heroines and lackluster heroes. They want deep emotional conflict and focus on the main characters.

The complaints I see the most are about plot. Something that's too hard to follow and filled with uneccessary pit stops generally gets a low grade from RT. I keep that in mind when trying to stretch a short story into a full novel. What don't I like about most books I pan? The extraneous scenes, the fluff, the things going on that don't have anything to do with the main story line. Sure I see how an author can garner a multi-book deal by adding in interesting secondary characters whose stories beg to be told, but sometimes there's just too much going on. This seems to be the number one problem for the RT reviewers.

Now, I'm not going to start writing my strories with the idea that they have to please the people at Romantic Times. But I do keep in mind the things I read there and try to avoid the pitfalls I see time and again. Would I buy a book that recieved a two or one-star review from RT? Probably not, but I don't run out and buy the four stars either, unless they truly intrigue me. In fact I never buy a book based on a review though I'm sure a lot of readers do or there wouldn't be a market for the magazine.

Do you buy or avoid books based on reviews? If not, what are your criteria for choosing what you read?

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