Spoiler Alert

I read and review a lot of books. When my dental hygienist asked me this week how many books I read and review in a month, I estimated fifty novels each month but that figure is far too low. I spend more than a thousand dollars a month—every month—buying books (nearly twenty grand a year), and I get free review copies in the mail and from NetGalley every week. I also get free copies as an active voting member of HWA’s Stoker Awards, SFWA’s Nebula Awards, and Worldcon’s Hugo Awards. That’s one hell of a shitload of books.

I also check out the local Barnes and Noble brick and mortar store at CherryVale Mall twice a month and spend a good 2 hours a week browsing Half-Price Books. I also browse and purchase from Barnesandnoble.com, Amazon.com, Kobo, and other online retailers as well as publishers’ websites. You see, I am addicted to books. I am in love with books. Books are my life.

I cannot conceive of a life without books.

A newly-published first novelist recently lamented that his entire life has been taken over by books. Not only does he have to write his own books, but he has to devote considerable time to market his titles. He has no time left for himself or his family. There is never enough time in life to do everything, not even in the Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last”. Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes wishes come true.

Books have always been a big part of my family’s life. My earliest and fondest memories are me sitting on my mother’s or father’s or aunt’s or grandmother’s laps and being read to from a book. When my wife died, I found comfort in a book. My daughter also reads and collects and writes books. I have fond memories of reading her to sleep when she was a child.

So how many books do I actually read and review each and every month? I write reviews under a variety of pseudonyms as well as under my own name. Last month was a slow month and I reviewed only 38 titles. So far I have reviewed 63 titles in October, and the month is barely half over.

Reviewing books is an honored tradition followed by many authors as a) a way to keep abreast with and even ahead of market trends, b) a way of paying it forward to up-and-coming novelists who deserve the mention, c) a way to get one’s name on the covers of books one didn’t even write oneself, d) a way of analyzing what works and what doesn’t in fiction and recording those findings, and e) a way to be a Mister Know-It-All and be paid for pontificating.

I usually ignore the minor typos and grammatical errors I discover in ARCs (though I sometimes do mention them to authors in personal e-mails in hopes that they’ll be corrected before the book appears in print). What bothers me a great deal lately, however, is the number of self-published or small-press published books with glaring errors that should have been corrected as part of the editing process. I have even found a few in my own novels when they appear in print. Are we all in such a hurry to get our books out there that we overlook one of the most important parts of the process?

Yes, we are.

I hate it when my reading experience is spoiled by typos or formatting errors or anything that interrupts the willing suspense of disbelief.

For the longest time, I refused to review such books at all. But now I realize that is unfair to an author who needs objective feedback.

And I also realize that—perish the thought!—I’m not perfect, either.

So here is a spoiler alert. I will give a five or four star rating to a novel that has marvelous potential in order to encourage that author to continue writing. One such writer is Lisa Vasquez, author of The Unsaintly (Create Space, 978-1461031086, $9.95). She concocted a good storyline, decent suspense, valid character interactions, realistic dialog, and spoiled the effect by adding an extra line between paragraphs. It’s such a minor thing that I should have been able to ignore it, but I couldn’t. I’m an old-time reader whose eyes expect to flow between paragraphs without extra white space. I loved the story itself, and the author is a writer to watch. I gave The Unsaintly five stars and included a caveat in the review.

I read Vasquez’ The Anti-God in Kindle and the extra space wasn’t so noticeable.

I recommend Lisa Vasquez to horror readers because she has created a believable fictional world with believable characters. I hope she continues to write.

Now it’s time for me to return to writing my own fiction.


5 thoughts on “Spoiler Alert

  1. I wanted to take the time to thank you for your review. You’re right, there’s not enough hours in a day, so the fact that you spared time to read and review my book deserves at the very least, my gratitude. 🙂 I’ll work on that formatting! Great feedback.


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