1. Wait a few days. Sometimes the initial rage a book gives me fades. Cooler heads prevail and some stuff that made me angry was subjective and not a reason to slam a book.
2. Reread the summary. Did the summary match what I read? Sometimes I expect things from a book it didn’t deliver. Was that me or was it the summary that made my perceptions not line up with reality?
3. Check the genre. I am looking for fantasy reads, preferably Urban Fantasy for an adult audience. I spend a lot of time settling for Young Adult, Paranormal Romance and so on. Sometimes what I hated is a genre standard, and I try not to hate on a book because it’s a romance with fantasy elements and I wanted the reverse.
4. Look at what else the author published. A book catalog sometimes puts a book in perspective and allows me to be kinder.
5. Read another book by that author. Sometimes I need to live in that writer’s style for over one book before I relate to what he or she is doing.
6. Read other people’s reviews. Did someone else enjoy something I missed? Was this book just not meant for me? Others perspectives can help.
7. I focus on what I liked about the book. What kept me reading? If I finished the work there must be some redeemable qualities, what drove me forward and is that more powerful than what annoyed me?
Tell me about your process. Do you refrain from commenting on bad work? Do you dive into a bad review without pause? Do you try to be balanced or lean in to your personal views? Tell me anything related book reviews or what you love/hate in books.
If you’re looking for positive reviews try my Kindle Unlimited series. So far I recommend the Secondborn Series and the Dragon Ridden Series. Let me know if you have other thoughts or suggestions. And as always, feel free to check out my Goodreads profile to see all the good and bad reviews.
I am always skeptical when I pick up a book. There are too many deceiving summaries and too many bad books with high reviews. To make matters worse, I’m someone who has to finish a book once it’s started. Because there are so many unpleasant tropes in high fantasy, the books are often long and lack resolution. I HAVE to see things to the end, so I avoid reading them, even though I like fantasy.
Despite all my hesitation, Dragon Ridden drew me in and left me charmed. The first book is a perfect story. Tate is loud, sassy, and smart. I love following her around. Her best traits: intelligence and suspicion are also the traits that get her most in trouble. She’s inquisitive, loyal, and never gives up.
The world T. A. White depicts is familiar but different. In many aspects, it reminds me of a scifi/fantasy crossover like Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonriders of Pern. Humans exist, but it divorces them from the history and geography of our world. Also, there are other species we associate as “magical” that these works frame as science born. Ancient lost technology and knowledge pepper the Dragon Ridden series and speaks to the inner seeker in all readers.
Can I gush “girl power” for a moment and just say how amazing it feels to read a strong female lead who doesn’t ooze femininity? Tate is what I’d consider a “brawler” type character. She lets her mouth run away with her and finds herself in fights. Tate can’t take two steps without finding herself in some kind of trouble. I love there is no moment where we have to hear about how Tate is “not ladylike” or where she’s “not like other women”. The others tease her for what a trouble magnet she is, but that’s who she is not what her gender prescribes.
I love she never uses her “feminine wiles” to get information, sneak into places, or gain allies. I love she never looks at a dive bar and thinks “I have to be careful cause I’m a girl and men are drunk and rape-y in there”. I love she expects equal treatment from captains, kings, negotiating delegations, and barkeeps and they treat her the same as her male compatriots. And all this happens without us ever enduring a scene about Tate being “unusual” for a woman “more level headed” or whatever that sets her apart and lets her be one of the guys. T. A. White just writes her in as an equal and lets us enjoy that without feeling compelled to justify it.
To be fair, there are few other female characters surrounding Tate. Their lack implies something “special” about Tate (at least in the human side other races have powerful female players). But it’s so refreshing that no male character addresses how “improper” Tate is that I don’t care if other human women are more “traditional”. The closest anyone comes to telling Tate to “fem it up” is when she’s going to formal events, they shove her in a dress. Truthfully, I could do without the “women clothes are uncomfortable and restrictive” bit but when that’s the most bullshit your character gets for being a woman in what seems like a male dominated world, I’m in. Aspiring writers, do you want to know what you do when you’re writing a female character in a man’s world? Do this, don’t address it, act like her presence is normal and accepted. Don’t make her some special snowflake we have to keep addressing in the narrative, just make everyone accept her without blinking.
Beyond world building and character building, the plot pacing in these stories is perfect. There are not parts in any of these books I skimmed, looking to pull through to something interesting. Everything T. A. White includes feels important to the narrative and engaging to the reader. She often has multiple mysteries and sub plots going on in a single story and she adds red herrings along with peppering character development in across the books. I read during my breaks at work, and this series became difficult to read during those times because I wanted to sit in the break room and keep reading. It was one of those books I’d take home and read instead of coming home and writing as I’d planned.
Even better than perfect pacing, each book comes to a conclusive ending. While I tore through the series, it is because I wanted more delightful writing. I couldn’t get enough of what T. A. White was doing, not because I NEEDED to know the ending. For the record, the third book in the Dragon Ridden Chronicles has such a conclusive ending, I had to go online to see if there are plans for a fourth book. Amazing news: T. A. White plans to write a 4th book!
Take Aways from T. A. White’s Success:
1. Women have a place in “high fantasy” and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence. Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre)
2. Sprinkle in world and character building across the series. I need not know everything all at once.
3. Give characters nicknames if they are catchy and encapsulate an element of the character. This is the one series where giving the same character multiple names didn’t confuse me, and it worked because we all call the character one name and that nickname is based on their attributes.
4. Mix fantasy and scifi elements together. Tech and magic are not exclusive.
5. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending. Be confident in your characters and larger world building. People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.
Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. Bartol.
Fellow writers: would you rather a reviewer tell you that the book’s story and characters were amazing but the writing quality didn’t meet expectations or that your book’s writing was mind blowing but the characters and story were cliche retreaded territory? Follow up bonus question: are your feelings hurt by either or these critiques?
I’m asking because I write a lot of book reviews (check me out on Goodreads/shameless plug) and they are critical, even onbooksIlike. I wonder like many aspiring writers might, what effects if any of my reviews have on the authors and on my ability to reach out/break into their world of publication. Am I speaking to other readers or do authors also follow discussions on their books? Am I closing doors by breaking a book down or am I showcasing a thoughtful and attentive mind by considering so many facets? For me these answers break down to whether my comments are offensive and insults are often in the eye of the beholder.
Assuming for the moment that critical discussion on aspects of a book don’t automatically equal injury, I want to know what specific kinds of critical discussion would be fair to discuss with an author.
Personally, I’d rather have characters and plot that a reader falls in love with than pitch perfect writing. Things I want to hear include: “The characters felt very real,”, “I felt like I knew everything about these characters,”, “I needed to know more,”, “I’ve never seen this kind of story explored this way.”
That said, I have a distinctive sing song almost poetic style in all my writing. I have an unique “tone.” If someone compared my writing to another person’s style, I’d be curious to read more of that person’s work and excited to meet a kindred spirit. If someone doesn’t like my style, I get that too. It’s heavy in description, relies on alliteration, and is simile/metaphor heavy. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Grammatically, I know I need serious help. Critiques to that effect can dishearten me after I’ve gone through editing that relates to correcting grammar, but it doesn’t cut me. Either I can go back in and correct the grammatical errors (a bonus to electronic publishing), or I’ve made the error in favor of how a phrase flows or draws out a feeling fragmented instead of a full detailed thought.
Does it all boil down to where we as writers are insecure? My confidence in writing style makes me believe problems in my book must be character/plot related, and therefor I’m more concerned with feedback from those quarters. I still want the feedback. For me there is never enough feedback or feedback that’s too harsh as long as it comes with specific examples so I can follow another’s thoughts.
Please give me your thoughts. Do you fear another kind of feedback? If someone published you would negative or mixed reviews hurt your feelings? And how do you rate books/media?