Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bloggiesta: How to Properly Write a Negative Review


So, a few weeks ago I wrote a post that received some attention entitled The Necessary Evil of the Negative Review. Before I ever started the post I knew that I also wanted to cover how to properly write a negative review, but knowing the attention-span of most internet users I knew that to put it all in one post I would lose people.

I feel too passionately about this to have your attention wander.

I received a lot of feedback and I learned that while many people have difficulty writing a wholly negative review and many are much more comfortable with the mixed review, which is great. It's great because a proper negative review actually should be a mixed review, sometimes that mix is just going to skew more negatively, and that's okay.

Without further ado, I want to give you five tips to better negative reviews.

One: If you take nothing else away from this blogging challenge, please remember this: Never ever get personal about the author. Even if it's a memoir, stick to the merits (or lack thereof) of the book itself. A wise woman once wrote: "We are not our art." (How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran)

Two: Maintain balance. There are few books that are entirely awful. Find some little something that you liked and be sure to comment on that as well. This leads me to...

Three: If all else fails, use the compliment sandwich. This technique can be especially useful with sensitive topics. The compliment sandwich, when executed properly can insulate the worst part of the review between two good things about the book. It's just what it sounds like. Start by saying something nice, hit the book hard in the middle part of the review, and end on a happy note.

Four: When possible, be specific. Readers prefer specificity in their reviews. If all you have is, "This just didn't work for me, I'm not sure why." It's not going to be very helpful to the reader. Try to pinpoint what it was that didn't work for you, was it the world building? The characters? The style or syntax? Point out the problems and give as much specific information as you can. If it's something personal like you were just in the wrong frame of mind for the book, say that too. It can also be helpful for readers to know who you think might enjoy the book.

Five: Don't be afraid. Most people don't like writing negative reviews. But I truly believe that they are necessary evil for maintaining the integrity of our blogs especially if your blog accepts ARCs. If you're one of the rare blogs out there that doesn't, congratulations on your freedom.

But for the majority of book bloggers out there, my honest opinion is that if you accept ARCs then you need to write negative (or at least mixed) reviews. Because I think that we all read a lot of bad ARCs. But see the original post for my ramblings on that topic.

Now that I've broken it down for you,  I'm going to have little blogging confessional and share with you a completely inappropriate negative review that I wrote and then I'll link up two negative reviews that I think are well done.

First. Early on when I started blogging, like so many of us I just didn't know the intricacies of the publishing world and I didn't really think about authors as 'real people'. I wasn't thinking in terms of their book being something they had slaved over for possibly years, if not decades. So, while I shames me to trot this out in the light of day I'm going to share my review of The Girl Who Couldn't Say No this is absolutely an example of what not to do when you're writing negative reviews.

What's Wrong With It
  • I clearly violate Tip Number One. I get TOTALLY personal, I even recommend she seek out therapy, not cool, April not cool.
  • There's no balance and I offer nothing up on what might be good about the book or who might actually enjoy it. I stand by my point that it was poorly written, but there was a better way to say that.
Now. I feel the next two reviews fall well within the confines of all the tips that I've given you. The first one The Atheist's Fatal Flaw is wholly negative. I couldn't even compliment sandwich it because I found the book to be that distasteful and poorly written, but notice that I still temper the review with noting past reviews on similar topics that I made, showing my open-mindedness to the issue and maintaining a respectful tone throughout (or at least mostly respectful). I'm specific about what I have problems with and address those issues with concrete examples. Also, I don't get personal about the authors.

Second. I have what I consider to be a good execution of the compliment sandwich. Finding Me was ill-written to be sure. I struggled to write the review because of the sensitive subject matter and this is an execution of a negative review that I feel proud of.

Edit: Kim at Time 2 Read has provided some excellent additional advice. I'd highly suggest you check it out!

The Challenge: Admittedly, this is a hard topic to challenge you with. But I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments or see examples of your own negative or mixed reviews. Do you have any more tips on how to gracefully write a review of a book that you didn't really care for?




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

30 Authors in 30 Days: A.J. Jacobs on Poking a Dead Frog

Preliminaries
30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event is taking place right now and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs. 

Naturally, an event of this magnitude has some great prizes provided by GoneReading.com and BookJigs. For the full schedule of participating authors and bloggers, visit The Book Wheel - 30 Authors. You can also follow along on Twitter with the #30Authors hashtag!

Personally
I feel incredibly lucky and honored. Today we have A.J. Jacobs, A four time New York Times bestseller. My favorite work of his is A Year of Living Biblically. (Purchase here!) I really couldn't think of a better fit for this little blog. But enough fan-girling. Let's get down to business. Today A.J. is here to talk about Poking a Dead Frog by: Mike Sacks. On to the good stuff!

                                                                                                                                                               

A.J. Jacobs on Poking a Dead Frog by: Mike Sacks
This book of interviews with comedy writers is, of course, named for the famous E.B. White quote: ““Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”
Which is not a quote I admire. First, of all, Merriam-Webster defines “dissect” as ‘to cut a plant or dead animal into separate parts.” So if the frog is being dissected, it’s already dead. White should have said “vivisected.” Not to get all Strunk & White on his ass. But did write the book, you know?  
Second, the statement is surprisingly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. What’s wrong with curiosity? Shouldn’t we be blown away by the way evolution has led to this green amphibious creature with its unlikely system for breathing, eating and excreting? Sorry if that’s ‘discouraging’ to him.
(Let’s put aside the ethical question and assume the frog lived a comfortable life on a spacious lily pad and died a peaceful natural death before being dissected).
Okay, I seem to have wasted most of my word count. Did I sufficiently vivisect that quote?
The point is, Mike Sacks’ book is wonderful and useful for comedy writers, but also for anyone interested in how creative minds work.
Mike – a very funny writer and acquaintance of mine has contributed to the New Yorker and Esquire, among others  –interviewed a bunch of comedy A-listers, including Bruce Jay Friedman, Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron and George Saunders.
Roz Chast talks about her love for cartoonist Charles Addams and strange diseases, like the woman who turned silver from too many nasal drops. Conan writer Todd Levin explains how to write a submission packet for a late night show. (His contained, among others, a never-aired “Whizmore, the Cheez Whiz Whizing Wizard” sketch. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s pretty much what it sounds like).
George Saunders is, of course, lyrical and thoughtful, talking about his childhood in Chicago and the lonely characters he met at his dad’s restaurant Chicken Unlimited.
And also, there’s this not so funny but sound advice from twitter wit Megan Amram: “just be a human being. Be nice to people and don’t be crazy.”

Which is, I think, an excellent rephrasing of the Golden Rule.

                                                                                                                                                               

A.J. Jacobs is an author, journalist, lecturer and human guinea pig. He has written four New York Times bestsellers that combine memoir, science, humor and a dash of self-help.

Learn more about A.J. Jacobs by:
Visiting his author site at http://ajjacobs.com
Checking out his Amazon author page
... or maybe his Barnes & Noble author page
Perhaps you'd prefer to see him on Goodreads?
Naturally you can also find him on Facebook
AND Twitter! @ajjacobs


                                                                                                                                                               

Are you as psyched as I am about Poking a Dead Frog? Learn about Mike Sacks in many ways:
Better yet! Find Poking a Dead Frog for your personal library at:
A big thanks to A.J. Jacobs for his fabulous review and Allison at The Book Wheel for organizing this event. I hope everyone else had as much fun as me! Don't forget to check out the full schedule for what you missed and what's coming up! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Bloggiesta Time!


Happy Bloggiesta, childrens! I missed out on the mini-Bloggiesta in July because of the bar examination - so I need to hit it hard for tweaking the blog during the Fall Bloggiesta.

Hopes and Dreams
  • Reconfigure social media buttons - delete what's unimportant
  • WRITE SOME DAMNED REVIEWS (So far behind)
  • Update review policy
  • Update About Me
  • Update Blogroll
  • Check out mini-Challenges and see what I need to use
  • Try to make at least one Twitter chat
I know there's so much more and I will definitely add it as this event progresses (even if just so I can cross it off after I've done so).

Also, keep your eyes peeled on Wednesday for my own little contribution to the event!

Are you joining in this time, Readers? You totally should.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spread the Love 2.0: Week Thirty Two



So my first bloggiversary was on Friday and bloggiversaries always mean fabulous prizes for the readers! Check out the giveaway in the upper right hand corner of the page! 

Last week the most clicked on link was: 


Go get your button!

Your turn! Showcase your favorite post this week!
Would you like a friendly reminder on when 
The Spread the Love Linky Party is going live? Wanna grab some buttons? 


Guidelines
  • Link up your greatest book review, bookish post, or anything tangentially related to books, reading, writing, or blogging that is fabulous this week (or before!) that you want to show to the world!
  • Additionally, please avoid linking up other parties, directly to Etsy shops, and posts that are just to a giveaway. If you have a book review or an author feature or... anything else that happens to have a giveaway as well, that's A-OK.
  • Spread even more love - Click on at least one other link that interests you (and others!) and say something nice! It's a fantastic way to learn about a new blog and see an amazing post that someone is really proud of! We all love nice comments, so this part is important, take a minute and spread the love!
  • By linking up, you are granting the party hosts permission to promote you and and image from your site in a featured post or on social media. Meaning, if I or anyone else thinks that your post is super fabulous, it might get promoted! This is totally a win-win, don't you agree?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Bloggeversiary! Giveaway EXTRAVAGANZA!


I can't believe that this little blog has puttered along for a year. I started this blog as an intellectual outlet while caring for my mother while she was sick, after she got better I stuck with it and you guys stuck with me! Now you're stuck with me

So, traditionally the first anniversary gift is paper. Except I love my international readers, so the first anniversary here will be eBooks! I want to represent my love of both fiction and non-fiction. So. 



Open Internationally one lucky reader will win a Kindle version of William L. Shirer's seminal work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Margaret Atwood's new collection of short stories Stone Mattress.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weird Wednesday: Naked in the Forest

Naked in the Forest by: Geneva West
Review by: AnnaSaurus Rex
Source: Purchased! (Believe it or not!) 

OMG STFU guys WUT???

This is my legitimate reaction to Naked in the Forest: (Heterosexual Monster Threesome). I thought Rammed by the Raptor was silly, but Naked in the Forest makes Rammed look like Shakespeare, Joyce and Tolstoy had a homosexual threesome and then somehow birthed a literary genius.

Naked has even less plot than Rammed by the RaptorHOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I wouldn’t have believed it unless I actually read it. I feel like this much lack of plot is quite a feat to accomplish actually.

We start with Cara, our horny, dark haired protagonist. She’s camping with the fam when she’s nothing more than teenage jailbait. She has a telepathic experience with a Bigfoot creature in the woods. Bigfoot’s all sad because, yeah, Bigfoot has feelings too (IT’S CALLED CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, PEOPLE) but he ain’t no creepy perv, so he lets Cara know she should return once she’s of age.

Bigfoot threesome = cool.
Bigfoot threesome with under-aged teenager = not cool.

It’s nice to know there are some boundaries out there.

Cara returns to the woods when she’s a woman and as she approaches the spot of the First Encounter her body starts aching for that nine-foot tall emo monster. (THINK ABOUT IT. Long hair flopping in front of his eyes, mopey demeanor – I wouldn’t be surprised if his fingernails were painted black and he listened to Taking Back Sunday.)

Oh! Bonus. Bigfoot is named Groam. I have… feelings… about this, but I think it’s going to take some time to work it out. I’ll get back to you.

It turns out this story is 30% environmental descriptions, 69.99% BANGING and 0.01% shit no one is interested in. Okay, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys monster erotica, then it’s probably 69.99% HELLLLLLS YEAH and 30.01% shut-up-and-get-to-the-banging. I say all of this because it begs the question: What’s up with all the environmental description? At one point, the forest gets SUPER sexual. Caressing and whatnot. Family camping trips will never be the same for you, dear reader. YOU’RE WELCOME.

QUOTE WORTH QUOTING: “This is no time for fantasy,” she told herself, as her feet carried her forward through the woods. “This is reality, and I’m not here to spoil it by locking myself in my mind.”

YUP. This is the realest realness I’ve ever experienced.

So Cara is busy penetrating the forest looking for her man Groam, and she gets the urge to go native. She jumps into her birthday suit and it’s not even her birthday. This girl is crazy. She wanders around a bit, takes a nap and when she wakes up it’s nighttime. GROAM IS THERE.

Commercial break.


Something to think about...

Fade in.

“I came for you,” Cara said. (Double meaning anyone?!) Groam can’t talk per se, which is how I prefer all my lovers, amirite ladies?! Tall, dark and silent. Let’s get down and dirty, enough of the chit-chat!

What that down and dirty entails is long and QUITE descriptive. Here are the highlights:

  1. Groam has a penis that is equivalent to a day old Subway sandwich. A foot long and rock hard.
  2. If you’re ever writing monster erotica the word “musk” should be used with alarming frequency.
  3. Grunting and roaring is the language you can expect from a Bigfoot lover.
  4. Apparently, Groam is used to prostitutes – he’s not into kissing.
  5. When intercoursing a monster, a basic understanding of the theory of general relativity may be helpful. Evidently your vagina can accommodate a lot more matter than seems humanly possible. See: black holes.

Okay, so all that happens. A lot. Then sleep, food, making out. Who shows up next but the number three to our threesome! A second Sasquatch! Through telepathy (no, seriously) we learn he’s a widower, his name is Keer and, for him and Groam, these threesomes are totes normal, NBD.

Okay, I’m ready to talk about his name now. Groam. GROAM!?!? Is it awful or is it perfect? I really can’t tell. My mind is riddled with synonyms for semen and vagina, there’s hardly room for anything else.

You know, I’m gonna go with perfect. Groam. Like the sound a Sasquatch would make while he’s ramming you. Therefore, it’s appropriate. Win.

So we get into a little bondage, a LOT of anal (again, the theory of general relativity may apply here), and very light bro love. Eventually, after countless orgasms Cara remembers real life and peaces out. How she manages to walk, I’ll never know.

Aside:
ERHMUHGURD GUYS. Can there be a crossover between Rammed and Naked?! Sexy neighbor scientist from Rammed can get wind of this encounter and need to study Cara/her mating habits/her vagina. AHHH SOMEONE WRITE THAT SO I CAN REVIEW IT DOITDOITDOITDOTIDOTIDOTID! It’ll be erotica fanfiction. It’s a whole new level of erotica!

Through the use of literary techniques, future encounters are alluded to. Sequels?! I can’t imagine there is anything else to explore between these three. Then again, it’s entirely possible that I have a terribly dull sex life. I mean, I’ve never even become aroused when thinking about a Sasquatch, or run naked through a forest while fantasizing about mythical creatures. I am obviously B-O-R-I-N-G. It might also be that I’m reading too much erotica lately.

Nah. That can’t be it.

Final verdict

Two out of five groans from Groam. 


Next time give me less erotic forest and more plotline! Reading so much erotica means I have to lie to myself a little and say it could possibly be for literary reasons. Throw me a bone(er), will ya?



April: So, Readers? What's next for AnnaSaurus Rex? Any requests? Any THOUGHTS ON THIS MASTERPIECE?

Monday, September 8, 2014

How I Really Feel: Sex, Money, Mad Men


Okay, so there's nothing about sex in this post. That's unrelated. Also, it sounded good.

So. Ever since Shannon at River City Reading posted her thoughts on Disclosure, Sponsored Content, and Keeping it Real. I've been thinking. Actually, I've been thinking since I received my first Influenster VoxBox. What I've been thinking about is what kind of blogger I want to be.

There are a lot of different feelings that I have wrapped up that go a million different ways. Sponsored posts, bloggers feeling as if they're owed books by publishers, publishers feeling as if they're owed reviews by bloggers. I'm not trying to piss anyone off, but invariably when you preface statements that way, you're about to say something pissy.

In my post on the importance of negative reviews, I talked about the unique voice that book bloggers are gaining within the book world and the importance of maintaining the integrity of our blogs. If we want to continue to expand our credibility and influence as a community, then we must guard our integrity with the utmost care. 

My problem with Influenster and by extension Klout, further extending to Blogging for Books... (and so it goes) is best explained by a scene from the first season of Mad Men. The good ol' boys advertising club is having difficulty coming up with a decent way to market lipstick, so they "throw it to the hens" and watch their reaction through a one way window. Here's a quick video to see what I'm talking about.


Unknowingly, for the price of trying out some new shades of lipstick, the women are turned into a focus group to be used by the men (The Man) to better market a product. 

I fully realize my analogy is far from perfect. After all, as bloggers today we are (or should be) aware that what we're doing is marketing (to some extent) for someone, so to maintain our integrity we must be selective over what we choose to promote. Is a tube of lipstick the price we put on our integrity? 

If we're being paid to promote something, (which is fine) the only way to maintain our credibility is to fully disclose any endorsements as such. For me this is less about the FTC and more about the good of the community as a whole. The more bloggers that fail to disclose, the less credibility that we as a community have.

The VoxBox. So initially, I thought that Influenster was a pretty bitchin' program and was super-psyched when I was notified I was getting my first VoxBox. When it came in the mail I had to sit down and have a long hard talk with myself. Was I willing to sell out my readers for a bar of soap, some paltry makeup, and a carton of ice cream? After a few Instagrams and tweets I started to feel a bit icky with myself, not because the products were bad but because I felt no passion for the products. Sure, I loved the new packaging on the soap, but would I have tweeted about it if not for some silly carrot Influenster was dangling? No way. So I quit. My ickiness receded and I felt better. But the lesson has stuck and I refuse to travel down such a road again. 

My blog and all the social media attached to it is not a platform for giant corporations to advertise their products. My time is worth more to me than to spend it writing a post on ice cream that I feel no passion about, just for the possibility of winning a year's supply. My reader's time is worth more to me than that. 

This isn't a mission statement, a manifesto, or even an announcement of any sorts. This is just me, putting out my thoughts on things that have been trickling into our community, things impacting our community, not always in a positive way, things that aren't going away that I feel the need to address.

Thoughts, dear Reader? Do you agree on anything I've said here? How do you feel about sponsored content? I didn't really get into the issues of bloggers/publishers each feeling like they're owed something by the other, any thoughts on that?