‘Pestilence’ by Susie Kearley – Review

A well-thought-out pacey tale of the times from a promising British author…

Pestilence is an extremely well thought out story with an accurate outlook on the events that lead to the collapse of society through a pandemic. For some and in recent times that might feel a little close to home but this book carves a new and different path while acting as a social commentary. The vessel in this scenario is the emergence of a fungus which is the resultant of a warmer climate – a reaction to how we treat this planet. Every major moment that unfolds is covered by Susie Kearley who tells this story with a unique overview style that keeps the events moving and homes in on the reactive details even if things move quickly – this pace works for the genre giving it a page turning flow.

The emergence of a wonder drug ultimately leads humanity on a downward path of addiction and excessive consumption with eventual side effects that become incurable. Its humanity not learning from the past on repeat over and over again as we see the medical system downplaying this emerging threat through lack of knowledge and then being overwhelmed. There’s a theme throughout of vicious cycles where the government or even society fails to take note of a very real threat all caused by our species.

a toxic culture of unhealthy living, a reliance on pharmaceutical drugs rather than health living, destroying the planet and allowing the pathogenic fungus to thrive…”

The story is told via a wide array of characters and from the very beginning they live their way through a well imagined and ultimately important case study about our nature. We see the elite taking from the less fortunate and with force – more social themes that ring true and echo to our reality. This world we live in is fragile and our attitudes will be probably be our undoing. A threat emerges and those who survive it perhaps leave further generations doomed to live through something similar and that’s probably the most powerful message of all.

5 Stars – A rollercoaster of a read with a powerful message. Reviews left via Amazon, Goodreads and BookBub.

Is Goodreads Any Good for Authors?

The title of this post alone will probably stir some level of reaction from those in the online publishing world and I think its time we talked about Goodreads in detail. I am very much aware that Goodreads is aimed at readers and the platform may be a polarizing topic for debate but we’re going to look through that and try to decipher whether or not its actually beneficial for the modern day author…

Disclaimer:

Much like it says in the title I will state here that this post is aimed at authors, and yes I am aware readers use Goodreads much like I do as a reader. This post is also my opinion from experience of many years as both an author and reader. Those who wish to defend Goodreads as a reader, take it elsewhere because this one is for authors and I have nothing against any reader who uses Goodreads. This post is also just my opinion which doesn’t need to be taken seriously if it upsets you in anyway. I cannot and do not wish to control how you feel so my advice is if you feel so strongly about defending Goodreads then like most things on the Internet, then scroll on by and don’t read this post.

My reasoning behind this post?

Over the many years I have spent active on social media there have been only a few occasions where I got myself into an argument that led to a toxic situation. One of them funnily enough started with me venting about Goodreads and then someone had to use capital letters in a reply to inform me Goodreads was for READERS and not authors. Arguments went back and fourth. People got unfollowed and notifications were turned off in result. I think at one point I was accused of being aggressive – Twitter right? I’m also pretty sure somebody even gave one of my books a one star rating over on Goodreads because of this argument. So of course these days I tend to stay right in the middle and don’t really tweet about anything polarising – I often see folks complain about getting into arguments on the Twitter. My advice: try not to tweet about stuff that will spark heavy debate or passionate opinion…

Very recently I saw on another platform a rather high profile indie author said they no longer look at Goodreads for the sake of their mental health and so it got me thinking. Then my bloggy sense started tingling because we need to talk about it. Truthfully, there are so many authors who live in fear of being ‘review bombed’ on Goodreads I think it’s worth addressing. What is review bombing? Well it’s a term that comes from an angry mob forming online who band together and give an author’s works low ratings on Goodreads – yes this happens and it sometimes goes unnoticed by the platform, or so I have heard. When you publish a book, you essentially build yourself a glass house that will forever be vulnerable. For some this might be a revelation but it is something I now live with, it’s common knowledge that some folks will stoop to responding to me by just rating my book with a single star. This happens to many authors all the time.

What is Goodreads?

I always like to include those of the beginner persuasion in these things and well if you are new to authoring and the online book world you’ll eventually come across Goodreads which is basically the Facebook for books online. To me, it’s a little clunkier and outdated but you can compare it to FB in essence. Authors can list their works, create profiles and even join some groups which over the years I have found quite useful – especially the indie author ones and this is probably the most social part of the platform.

For the reader side of things and probably what the site is more suitable for, you can leave reviews and probably the most important tool for me as a reader/reviewer is the ability to create a ‘to be read’ list (TBR). This way I can track what I have said I would read and review – now this falls down if a newbie author hasn’t listed their work. Top Tip: Even if you never use Goodreads again, list your works so readers and reviewers like me can find them and then remember to read them.

Slipping from my control: My Goodreads Experience

Another disclaimer:

As mentioned above, this account contains my opinion. I’ll happily admit it might not be ‘right’.

Apart from using Goodreads to track my reading/reviewing endeavours a once bright eyed indie author (me) jumped into the foray of the platform and listed his books. Now for a beginner author, Goodreads feels good. You’ve listed your books and maybe a few folks have even reviewed them. Because its normally close friends and supporters the ratings of your works will probably be quite high, to begin with. Happy days. But then things will start to slip away…

I suppose all books go through this, but after some time a book’s rating will start to go down as it picks up more reviews. And so sometimes after a big book promo I’ll see the rating of my book tank along with my mental health. Now who’s leaving all of these low ratings? Well they are not always low but the way the rating system works always seems to be against good ratings. After some years my books ratings slipped from my control even though after publication they aren’t really mine anyway. Recently I made a pact with myself to not really care about the overall rating of my book’s on Goodreads. This was a mental health driven decision. And yes I know that reviews are going to happen, I have no problem with that.

There appears to be a culture beneath the surface of Goodreads where readers can just torpedo a book with one star, even without explanation. These ratings don’t require proof of purchase and normally aren’t even moderated by the site, not to mention they help nobody. Many times I have seen authors campaign to have an abusive review taken down – you’d think they would automatically be flagged these days – as I said, outdated and also a hot bed for potential toxicity in my opinion. Let the dumpster fire burn…

This isn’t just me venting about receiving low ratings or taking shots at Goodreads because in all honesty I don’t have that many, but from my experience the whole one star torpedoing is real and I can even correlate some I’ve received to every time I have shared my honest opinion online… joke, or is it? If you really want some heavy opinion on Goodreads then all you have to do is Google it and you’ll see.

Personally and my own conclusion is that Goodreads shouldn’t be taken that seriously for authors if it stays how it is. How can we if it isn’t basically made to be troll free or at least effort is put in to do that? It is linked to Amazon so I don’t think the whole verified purchase eligibility to leave a review concept would be that hard to set up. That kind of falls down with books that are inherited or gifted so options are thin. Its become a little bit like the wild west in that respect and so if its going to be like that then I can’t take it seriously. For the sake of my mental health, I hardly look into detail at my book’s reviews on the platform, that’s what Amazon is for. (yes I know Amazon are involved with GR’s ownership)

There is however a silver lining to this because I do use Goodreads in a social capacity. The groups can be very helpful for both authors and readers. I tend to lurk mainly in the ‘Support for Indie Authors’ group which boasts several thousand members and is a message board that covers so much from basic book formatting to book promotion. There are other like minded authors out there and the groups are a good way to find them. The support level in these groups is beyond fantastic and really a credit to the platform.

Asking the wider community…

Seeing as I have an engaged responsive Twitter following full of authors I decided to take the plunge and just ask them what they think of Goodreads as a platform for Authors. The response I got was actually a little unexpected because at first nobody said anything…

Now my tweets always stir some responses but when it came to the subject of Goodreads, nothing. This is an immediate red flag because although some authors did eventually respond it says way more than I needed to know – authors are most likely hesitant to give their opinion of Goodreads in fear there will be repercussions that will negatively effect their work’s rating. Is this the modern book world we live in? Its kind of worrying and sobering but probably the true reality of how potentially toxic things can get on social media. (Remember this blog post is an exploration and my opinion, I’m not taking shots at Goodreads in any capacity).

I did however receive a number of private messages from fellow authors requesting not to be named. Their experiences were all similar and all of them mentioned the one star review thing so they would rather talk to me privately which I respect. We are all trying to maintain an image online after all. Some authors mentioned bullying, tactical reviewing so a reviewer can climb the ratings, books receiving bad reviews before release and even abuse. A major point that all of these authors mentioned also was the lack of response or action Goodreads took on certain issues. The site in my opinion appears rather unregulated and in the 21st century something that probably needs looking at.

So my tweeting efforts weren’t a success but that didn’t stop me from using the search bar to find some more author related experiences. I have opted not to include twitter handles to protect authors from any potential repercussions.

As you can see it’s polarising and of course mentions the reading experience side of things which the platform is aimed at but you can see the whole troll review thing is a problem.

Conclusion

From everything laid out I think we can at least try and put together some concluding points that authors tend to have in common. Is Goodreads any good for authors? Well here are my findings in bullet points.

  • It’s a good idea for authors to list their books on the Goodreads even if you don’t actively use it. At least that way readers can put them on their lists.
  • Goodreads would be a much better place for authors and readers if everyone was transparent about the review bomb thing – these one star review bombs help nobody and yes I know readers are entitled to their opinion but manners comes to mind.
  • That one star review bomb thing is a glaring problem but partly a mob culture that is external to Goodreads so they are not fully responsible but should at least acknowledge it.
  • Furthermore, Goodreads would benefit from introducing a review system where people have to write a sentence or two as opposed to ‘hitting and running’ because these type of empty ratings help nobody.
  • Some of the author groups contain some real value and resources that can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Goodreads can just be used as a reader only platform which I tend to do these days.
  • If you are going to use it as an author be prepared for ratings to slip potentially.

My humble opinion doesn’t really matter but it’s obvious to see authors mentioning the same issues so perhaps a little modernisation of the platform is required. As I’m writing this, today is the first day I’ve decided to no longer check my book’s ratings on the platform. They only seem to get lower – that’s my experience anyway. As a reader I will continue using the platform to post reviews and list books I want to read. My primary take away is for authors to just remove themselves from something if isn’t beneficial but if you do enjoy the platform as an author then go for it.

Everything laid out stands as a lesson for anyone potentially looking to get themselves on Goodreads and most of what I’ve said is based upon my own experience and some opinion. But what’s next, can authors go to another similar platform that might feel a little easier to use and feel fresher on the whole?

Going elsewhere

The wonderful thing about the internet is variety and even in the book world which is seemingly monopolised by Goodreads. There is another awesome platform I use. BookBub, they have own site that’s fresh and personally I think its a decent space for authors. You can review books and connect with others. Check out my profile and if you are an author get yourself a profile and list your books on there. At least that way if they are listed on the site you can then apply for a featured deal – the book promotion holy grail – more on that here.

Final Thought

Overall Goodreads is a subject many authors tend to tread lightly on and I might be risking some incoming hatred but remember this post is just my opinion and not an attempt to shutdown the site or anyone who has left a low rating for a book. Goodreads does have a place in online authoring and probably will for a long time. If you do leave a comment reminding me that Goodreads is for readers then I will probably just ignore it.

I know reviews are just opinions and there isn’t much I can do about that. If you do have any grievances then do please leave them in the comments and not through rating my books on Goodreads.

So finally, what do you think of Goodreads for Authors? (and don’t tell me the site is for readers because I know that seriously…)

Thanks for stopping by.

‘Snag’ by Dylan Burroughs – Review

A well-paced horror that puts story first and the finer details perhaps second…

If you are looking for a slow building horror that keeps you engaged all the way through then this is the book for you. It’s ‘Predator’ meets ‘The Thing’ with a dusting of ‘Alien’ as newly released former prisoner ‘Jay’ finds himself taking a job as a logger to start again. After connecting with an old friend he heads out to the forest and mountainous surroundings where he encounters others on their own journey of working to start again. The trees and forest setting slowly closes in and then someone goes missing. That is while something stalks them, what exactly, you’ll have to read it to find out.

“It was quiet here. Not the pleasant kind of quiet in the forest where you can appreciate the the silence of the world. This was the oppressive, pressurised silence that bore down and made them yearn for any sound beyond their own breath and boots…”

Although the story is well paced there are just a few critiques I have that mainly relate to basic spelling errors and sometimes hard to understand abbreviated dialogue that I found myself having to read twice. Other than some over description in places Dylan Burroughs delivers a likeable creepy horror with a sense that something is watching in those trees. If that description was kept tighter this would have been perfect, perhaps something to aim for next time. The characters are three dimensional and react to the world they are in while the story progresses with a slow build that eventually culminates. These men will have to band together to fight the unknown. Our lead character Jay has a history which he looks to escape from and do good by with some old fashioned redemption. There are some good concepts here but some of the finer details just let it down a little.

3 Stars – A missed opportunity with a good concept let down by the editing…

Weekly Ramble #86

Reviewing 41 books in just over 10 months is up there with 2020’s finest moments for me. These days book reviews are the anchor of premier content for this blog and they make the whole thing seemingly tick. Not only do they provide content that an audience likes but with book reviews comes a plethora of opportunity.

Although I’ve said writing more books is probably the best advice I can give for marketing, first of all you have to convince people to invest in you before they’ll invest in any of those books and so comes that opportunity. Reviewing books by fellow authors will get you more personal investment than any marketing trick or tip out there. It proves you want to contribute to the industry and be a part of it. You’ll be seen in a trustworthy light, and with trust comes loyalty. This will take time and all good things do.

Let’s face it, if your an author you know the struggle to get reviews, if your a blogger you know the struggle to get reads, I know it too and so I set out to fight back by helping others as I would wish to be helped – that’s all this is and the road to being taken as a genuine and respected figure in blogging and authoring is paved by giving back. The best forms of engagement rely on being genuine, honest and giving without expectation. I’ll say that word again trust. Commenting on another blogger’s post will sometimes make their day and most of us know how much a good review can help an author’s general mood.

And what do I expect in return – well here’s the wonderful thing, I actually expect nothing back because reviewing and helping authors is done out of mutual feeling so if I get anything out of it, that’s a bonus. This whole deal is a state if mind and importantly above all I’m reading wonderful books – something I have loved doing most of my life. If you can fashion a passion into a worthwhile cause then you are a better person for it. There have even been better outcomes than selling books or getting reviews because now I regularly connect with authors through email, twitter and this blog. Some just want to talk while others run ideas by me, not that I know much but I’m happy to help.

To all the authors I have connected with through reviews and social media endeavours, you were the one’s who got me interested in your work and pushed me to this achievement so thank you. Where do we go from here? Well the year isn’t out yet so you can expect this Hall of Information blog to do what it always does, to review more books!