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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fantasy Book Critic one month later and miscellaneous stuff

Since May 4 marks exactly a month from Robert's announcement, an update seems like a good idea.

General Blog Stuff:

We finished the Review Index standing at 315 and counting - there are probably several more older reviews we missed and will hunt in time, and some links that probably are not correct, so again let us know about any such.

The Interviews are indexed for 2007 and (most if not all) 2008 (44). We have to add 2009 and link all, credit all, and then we should go live - hopefully sometime in May

We will continue a selected monthly spotlight on books of interest to us here and we hope that next months will be truly representative of all contributors. For May we have Liviu's books of which some coincide with Fabio's too, Cindy's favorite releases and however belatedly quite a few of Robert's and for June we hope to have more titles.

Also twice a month, we will have new Noteworthy Releases announcing books that will come out in the corresponding period and are our favorites, and each such will run for the whole period. Look for them on the right hand side of the blog. Again we hope that they will reflect the whole range of the contributors interest.

We would love to have new banners on top to announce cool and interesting books as well as book trailers - we love them if well done - but that's up to publishers, so it will depend on availability. Giveaways are on hold for now though they may resume later depending on time, energy...

We have updated the author links on the left hand side of the blog to more accurately reflect *some* of our tastes and avoid misleading readers about what kind of books are to be reviewed here. We are considering splitting the author favorites into each contributor's favorites, so people who are reading us and are interested in having a book reviewed know whom to address the request.

It would be greatly appreciated if any book review inquiries are addressed to the group email linked on our front page so whoever is interested can check them out.

One often forgotten category of people involved with books that is actually *crucial* in us the readers getting great books is the group of extraordinary genre editors that grace sff today, so we decided to add some of our favorite editors of today in a dedicated list.

We also verified the rest of the links, added some and we always welcome linking to sites or blogs of interest.

Cindy's Plans and Comments: Since the topic of review styles and plans for the future have come up. I thought that I would add my two cents in. For May, I have a few fun reads to review. A debut fantasy/romance novel by Aprilynn Pike, Wings, and hopefully a review of Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn. I will also be hosting a blog tour at the end of May for John Marco's first YA book in his series Skylords, called Starfinder. While this does not include all the titles that I have up my sleeve, those are some of the highlights that I look forward to in May.

During the month, my reading style varies. I not only read current releases, but I also have an abundent of books that I haven't had the time to get to. These are usually released anywhere in the past 5 years but can go farther back. I hope to integrate these into reviews on here, as many of these titles are relatively unknown or didn't get the publicity that I feel they deserved.

As for review styles, I prefer a more essay approach to writing my reviews. However, those that have read them will notice that they can usually be split up into sections: Intro, Summary, and then my annalysis of the book. Readers can rest assure that I would never spoil a book, and will try to give you my honest opinion on what I have read, even if it isn't that favorable to the book.

Just to establish my reading preferences ranges from YA to more adult content. There's very little that I won't read. However, horror/thriller and sci-fi (usually the stuff that involves traveling to other worlds or dealing with science) are almost always off the table for myself. I feel most comfortable reading, epic fantasy, fantasy romance, mysteries, mainstream fantasy. I haven't had enough exposure to urban fantasy or paranormal, to form an opinion of if it's something that I should completely avoid. As far as authors go, these readings include well established authors but also any authors that may not be as well known. I am always up to finding new authors that are up and coming. If you are an author or publisher and you don't feel your book falls into any of the categories that I have listed, feel free to ask via email and I will be more then happy to consider it.

Liviu's Plans and Comments: For May I have a varied range of reviews including great adventure fantasy that is found in the Romance section of bookstores (Storm Glass by M. Snyder), hardcore epic fantasy with battles and political machinations as good as it gets (Fall of Thanes by B. Ruckley), mind-blowing sf (Omega by C. Evans, Grand Conjunction by S. Williams), indies, shorts - novellas , anthologies and possibly even an author collection and more depending on book availability for May review.

I also plan to review another 08 favorite of mine The Ninth Circle by A. Bell leading to her new June book Jasmyn that is another long-awaited novel. And of course Cindy and Fabio and David will contribute their reviews of favorite books so we will have a truly broad range of titles, something for everyone I hope.

There is an interview with Lou Anders coming May 14 with extraordinarily detailed and frank answers to some open-ended questions on various topics, from short fiction, to being an editor in chief of a sff imprint, to state of the genre and our online sff playground.

Just because I am receiving personal emails that I have to spend energy to politely refuse, I want to mention that I generally *do not review* comics, superhero books, tie-ins, urban paranormal, horror, mysteries, or thrillers with very, very few exceptions, but I am interested in sf of all kinds, epic fantasy especially of the dark and gritty kind, weird and mainstream fantasy, selected romantic fantasy/sf and historical fiction.

Indies and short fiction
that come under the previous heading are generally welcome
, but I need an excerpt first and foremost, rather than a blurb since for me once a book' subject is of interest, the thing that makes me read that book or not is the author's style.

Cindy, David and Fabio have their own preferences that are mostly distinct from mine so again my fond hope is to have a very, very wide assortment of books, authors and subgenres featured here. Before, it was Robert's blog and his voice with us adding reviews that he kindly edited and posted; now it's a chorus that I have high hopes will harmonize various tones and notes so to speak...

I am very interested to know if there is a way to sort all blog comments by date since I found out by chance some new comments to older reviews of mine and I want to answer to any such that require it. I love it when people comment on our posts and I am eager for (constructive and polite) criticism and try to answer it and take it into account after.

For example one well deserved criticism both here in some comments and on forums like sffworld, was about some reviews of books that are very special for me, but not necessary to the traditional sff crowd I hang with - whether indies (The Crown Conspiracy), romantic fantasy, (The Laurentine Spy), debuts (Principles of Angels) - all books that I loved but I fully understand why people would have a different opinion.

So I decided to label such books as "personal favorites" meaning that I loved them so much that I cannot be really objective in looking for flaws; this label would not apply to established, well known authors, however much I love their books, just because there a consensus exists about their books and I can either add or disagree with it, but I will be with the crowd so to speak.

Another well deserved criticism was about some reviews having more in the "setting/overview" part and less in the "analysis" part; here I plead guilty by intent since I try and write the reviews I like to read and I generally do not care that much about a reviewer's opinion about this character's actions or development, the detail in world building and stuff like that since all such are generally very subjective.

What I care in reviews is a clear exposition with as few spoilers as possible of what the book is about - not a blurb or a plot description, but what is the "essence" of the book - what the characters are and do at the beginning of the book, how does the book fits in its "context", and the reviewer opinions about style, narrative flow, ending, tying of plot threads...

Of course if there are major plot flaws and such, yes I like to know, but otherwise a lot of stuff is so subjective that is not really of use to me when reading reviews so I avoid doing them in my reviews.


Anonymous said...

I used to read this blog all the time, but I am deleting it from my links.

The condescending, italicizing bold is outta hand, so is the 'telegraph-like' english', man...

Liviu said...

criticism noted; would have been better if it would have been signed, but well we cannot have everything ...

ediFanoB said...

So, I'm an "outta hand" reader because I also use bold and italic in my comments.

Liviu, I think there are still a lot of people who still don't recognize what you mentioned again:
"Before, it was Robert's blog and his voice with us adding reviews that he kindly edited and posted; now it's a chorus that I have high hopes will harmonize various tones and notes so to speak..."
From my point of view you are on a good way.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words - I am happy to see all kinds of feedback because we are all new at the "image part of FBC"

The content - well we contributed heavily in the past 9 months - but Robert edited, formatted and decided what, when, where everything goes and now there is truly no-one in charge.

Cindy's words are her own so to speak, her editing, her formatting, same with mine or Fabio's or David's; we do a common post like this one, I leave space and whomever contributes fills in, so it may be sometimes voice discordant, but it is authentic

So again we are trying to see what works, but from the first post after Robert's announcement I stressed that "we are not him" and we would not try to be him, because it's not going to work, it's that simple.

Cindy said...

From my stand point, I think the switch will create more readers and lose some. Some people aren't going to like what we do that used to, and some people might come here that didn't.

I'm not going to lose sleep over one person deleting it from their links.

99% of the blog is reviews, if someone can't handle one post like this clarifying situations that arose in the month we've been working then their lose.

I formatted my section so it would look similar to everything else as it was one post. I'm sorry if it did offend anyone.

As I'm sure everyone else Liviu, Fabio, David and myself. Criticism is always welcome, as sometimes we may not see what others are seeing. I always welcome feedback, so don't be afraid to give it. :)

Liviu said...

I have been following the online sff scene since the days of Usenet in the mid 90's and I saw quite a few people and great sites come and go, so in terms of content I *know* I will do whatever I want and not what anyone else wants, since that's the only way to keep going for the longest term which has been my intention once I accepted to help out Robert and then co-edit here.

The original commenter had some good points in terms of "presentation" and that is the one area I definitely am looking for improvements; but again I am new at this, while content I've doing for years now, in thousands of forum posts, comments and such...

Anonymous said...

Not to be negative or anything, but I noticed a lot of mention of "energy". You don't want to reject publishers because of the "energy" involved, you don't want to do giveaways because of the "energy" involved.

Maybe..... you should consider using a different word. Because it might come across that you resent the blog.

Liviu said...

Another great point - maybe energy it's the wrong choice of word, so I will think about it.

I love FBC and I am happy to put the effort, but only about things I *love* or some that are important to announce; I read 100+ books this year and I loved quite a few, so lots of room there

I have easily another 100-200 I want to read and new books are published continuously, and I *just* do not have the time to read, not to speak review things that do not interest me; time is limited so you gotta make choices about what to cover.

Robert made his choices, we make ours so again if FBC goes in a different direction to some extent, that's how it is, nobody forces anyone to read it. We have been upfront about that from the first post after Robert's announcement

Giveaways are just not my thingy - never entered one, so I have no intention of hosting such, but Cindy or David may want to do it, it's up to them.

Fabio actually was interested but for him it's harder being in Brazil and such.

Thank you again for the comment - it helps me greatly to adjust and be effective in communicating

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the change has negatively affected the blog in any way. The reviews, imo, are what have always stood out on here and that continues to be the case - plus my tastes are very similar to Liviu's and I always look to see what he's enjoying :)

Re: the giveaways. Competitions are nice, but too many can be detrimental. If they return in the future, great, but if not it won't be a huge loss.

The one thing I think I will miss is the monthly spotlights. I know how much work is involved with them (I do a sci-fi only one on my blog), but seeing all the titles coming up was great. Still, the idea to go forward with a selected spotlight is still good, I'm sure anything that I miss will come up in these :)

But seriously - keep up the excellent work, this is still the best blog to go to for reviews and the extra content can only help!

Cindy said...

Thank you for the kind comment, Mark. You bring up very good points. I honestly believe that the majority of the people feel the same way that you do.

We are still working around the Spotlight, the biggest thing for me was seeing how much work the blog had, such as emails, reading, formatting.

Giveaways are nice, but at the same time, they cost money. I don't really have that to shell out, but maybe in the future who knows :).

Liviu said...

Thank you for your comment; regarding spotlights, well we definitely will have more books for June - I know I have, Robert will give me his list also, and then Cindy will have some titles, hopefully David and Fabio too.

Also some people told me that while great, the monthly spotlight was growing a bit unwieldy, so a selected one, though slightly more expanded to say 20-30 titles should be more effective


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