reviews

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

I would normally leave this kind of short review on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’m not sure anymore about their guidelines with respect to authors reviewing other authors in their genres. Even though none of my reviews have ever been removed from Amazon, I figured I would post it here on the blog instead of taking that chance. Authors are readers, too. Authors also read other authors within the same genre all time as well. We shop for books and sometimes we like to review them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I heard about My Hero by Max Vos last week on social media, and I’ve read a few things by this author in the past and I’ve always enjoyed his work. So in full disclosure I did come to this book with a few set expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised in a different way this time.  This book seemed to have even more intimacy than past fiction I’ve read from the author. I love stories were fate seems to play a hidden role, and the clever way the two main characters came to know each other reminded me of past experiences I’ve had. I also like stories with football players who are typical jocks, and yet just a little bit different from the stereotypical jock.

The main characters, Johnny and Rich, meet up again after not seeing each other for a while.  (I also liked the fact that I could pronounce their names, remember their names, and that they had normal names.) Johnny is straight. Rich is gay. And the initial conflict begins when the two men find themselves in a situation that could be detrimental to Johnny’s reputation. Johnny, however, doesn’t seem as intimidated as he should be and comes off looking more interested than he probably should. This is also a quality of the story that I found highly realistic (and erotic) in the sense that these situations happen all the time and no one really knows about it. I’ve been listening to a similar story in real life recently, only with two middle aged men. My point is, without giving out spoilers, that it’s handled well and I could relate to it as a gay man, which I like to do when I’m reading gay fiction.

The book is sexy, and the sex does what it’s supposed to do: move the story forward, and help the characters grow. For me, that’s as plain and simple as good erotica gets. It’s emotional in some parts, and I found myself relating to the characters all over again. It’s a fast read, the character development continues throughout the book, and I found a few amusing/entertaining family situations, too. And it wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be. I found myself surprised a few times when I least expected it. I would recommend this story without thinking twice, and I’ll most likely go back and read this one again down the line because the characters are already so memorable.

I purchased this book at Amazon. Here’s the link to the Amazon page. I still might leave the review there as a verified purchase eventually. If I do I’ll give it five stars.

New Review "Feedback" Feature on Amazon I Love

I honestly don’t know how to describe this completely, and I only found out about it by accident while reading reviews for scented oils I buy on Amazon for my Lampe Berger last night.

It looks as if Amazon has added another feedback feature to their review system that allows customers to comment on reviews if they don’t agree with them.

In other words, I read this review for a one scented oil that I’ve already purchased. I didn’t agree with it, and I clicked “No,” that it wasn’t helpful. And when I clicked “No” a box popped up with comments that read:

Please tell us why this review is not helpful (optional)

  • Offensive content
  • Not about the product
  • Doesn’t seem genuine
  • Not enough information
  • Other

I tried to find out more about this new feedback feature with a simple search, and couldn’t come up with anything. If anyone knows more about it, or you can provide me with a link, feel free to comment or e-mail me in private. I’m curious about this as a consumer. I’ve purchased a lot on Amazon over the years. Most recently, besides oils for my lampe berger, I purchased fake potted shrubbery and it’s the most realistic fake shrubbery I’ve ever owned. I live on a large expanse of property, most of which is a combination of pachysandra and Ivy and Lawn. I have a lot to do around here to maintain things, plus a full work load, and I do it all alone right now. So anything like fake shrubbery that looks real is a blessing to me. I usually put them in urns. And when I read a negative comment about these fake shrubs I wanted to balance it out with my own comments about how wonderful they are so other consumers are not mislead by one bad review that may or may not be authentic…or may have been written by a lunatic.

Are Gay Male Authors Afraid to Comment/Review Books by Women Writing Gay Fiction?

I saw a comment on social media this past week that suggested gay male authors are afraid to comment on or review gay fiction that is written by female authors. So I thought about it for a while and decided to post something about it.

I can only speak for myself. I am a gay male author writing gay fiction and I don’t like being grouped into anything because as an author I work alone. It’s the same reason why I don’t have beta readers. I make the choices, for better or worse. No one influences me in any way. It will never happen.

First (note: not firstly…this is not up for debate either), my reading tastes are not limited to gay fiction. If you check out the books I’ve reviewed on goodreads (which isn’t even up to date) you’ll see that I read a great deal, and it can be anything from Rita Mae Brown to a spiritual books by Shirley MacClaine. I re-read authors like Toni Morrison often. I have read every single book Anne Tyler has written three times at least because of her tight writing style. I may be many things, but amateur isn’t one of them.

Second, I try to buy and read books I know I’m going to like. I vet before I purchase. I read reviews, I read author blogs, and I read blurbs. I do judge books by their covers sometimes. I know I’m not going to like a book with a woman in the long flowing red dress on the cover, so I don’t buy it. It’s that simple for me sometimes.

Third, on the occasion I do read gay fiction (or m/m romance) I review the book according to how I feel about it. Most of the time the gay fiction I’ve read written by women is good and I can leave a positive review or rating (I don’t always have time to leave in-depth reviews).

But I don’t review a book differently because a man wrote it or a woman wrote it. I don’t care what sex the author is. (I’ve written more than a few hetero novels with pen names and I’m gay.) You can check out my reviews on goodreads for this as well. I have left both good and bad reviews. The reason why I don’t leave more bad reviews is simple. Like I said above, I try to read what I know I’m going to like. And when I do leave a bad review, which I once did for a book written by a woman who writes gay fiction, it was because of the writing, not the sex of the author. In this case the writing was so poor I gave examples about why I left that bad review.

I actually didn’t like leaving that bad review. But it was honest and I wasn’t AFRAID to do it…with my own name. The key word here is afraid.

So this gay male author isn’t afraid to review or comment on books written by women who write gay fiction. I’m not afraid to review or comment about gay fiction written by gay men either. I’ve had my fair share of both good and bad reviews and I’ve never complained about them. And when I’m leaving a review as a reader I don’t expect anyone else to complain about my reviews. And, I’m never afraid to do it.

An Interesting Concept for Reviews in General

I’ve always maintained one single account for the web sites where I review or rate…anything. On Amazon I have one single account, under my own name, Ryan Field, that I’m sure could be traced if it had to be. On Goodreads, it’s the same scenario. Just one GR account, with my real name and identity, not a fake. I do sometimes comment on threads as anon in blog discussions, or with a fake name. But not often, and only when I don’t think it’s important for my identity to be revealed. Sometimes there are reasons to do these things. For example, (I know you’re waiting for a reason) I follow and love one blogger who writes middle grade fiction. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me, due to the subject matter of what I write, to comment on his middle grade thread. I love his work, and yet he doesn’t even know who I am.

To make this point even clearer, right now I’m using a pen name for a book that’s been difficult to write. The publisher asked me to use the pen name; it wasn’t my choice. I’m not fond of doing this, I don’t like doing this, and I’ve basically done nothing to promote that book. I’ve tried to get into it. I’ve tried to promote the book and the pen name. But it’s not working. At this point in my career, I don’t think it’s worth risking my own real identity for the sake of a pen name that means nothing to me. And once the next book is finished, that’s the last book the series will ever see with me attached to it. And if this doesn’t prove how strongly I feel about my identity, nothing ever will.

To reiterate: I only have one account on each review site with my own name. If necessary, these accounts could be traced back to me. This way I know what I wrote, when I wrote it, and I can be held accountable for everything I’ve put into writing. I do this for various personal reasons and I feel very strongly about these reasons. I learned years ago I have nothing to hide, and if I’m going to put something in writing I don’t mind being held accountable for it. I’m also well past the days of meltdown when it comes to getting bad reviews, so THAT can be scratched off the list. My meltdown days ended about four years ago. I don’t really care if my name comes up in comment threads either. If you don’t think so, ask me and watch me smile.

One account and identity is what most people do, I believe. I know this is what my mom does with her Amazon account, and it’s what my good friends do. The one thing I’ve always had a problem with is leaving bad reviews. I prefer to leave good reviews for books I like instead of focusing on bad reviews with books I didn’t like. And I don’t like to attack other authors, just like doctors don’t like to attack other doctors and teachers don’t like to attack other teachers. For me it’s more about solidarity and collaboration. And just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good. So I will admit that’s my review flaw. But that’s not going to change. Some things are just too subjective to be objective.

I actually stopped all google alerts in April of 2009 and rarely ever read my own reviews because I don’t think it’s a place where I should go. When people review my books they should have the ability to go there without me looking over their shoulders or getting involved in their discussions about my books. I don’t belong there. In fact, I don’t even like it when I see publishers leave ratings and reviews for books. I respect all opinions, good or bad. I’ve also learned…and posted about here before…that not all bad reviews hurt authors and books. Sometimes they help. I’ve also posted many times before that I’ve found some of the books I’ve loved the most from reading bad reviews. That’s how I found “Fifty Shades of Grey,” through a bad review, long before it went mainstream.

I think it’s important (for me) to stand behind my name and my identity and to enforce how strongly I feel about using my own name and identity in case anything questionable ever does crop up. Others may disagree with me and that’s fine.

But there is one thing I’d love to see added to review sites with everyone’s profile, including mine. I understand that some people have to use pen names for various reasons and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But I’d like to know just how many pen names and accounts they actually have from the same IP address. Now that would be interesting, if not entertaining. Because if the number of accounts started to appear on everyone’s profile and it turned out that some had multiple identities, I’m not sure what I would think. I might not think twice if I saw someone had two or three fake names and identities. That’s plausible, I guess. But what about if they had five, six, seven, or more fake names. Like I said, I understand the need for pen names. But I’m not so sure I understand the need for multiple identities, with an extended number.

Unfortunately, this will never happen…at least not in my lifetime. But it is very entertaining to think about it. I’m also sure that some who read this post will still question who I am and if this really is my real name and identity. It seems no matter how hard I try to get the point across there are always some who are so jaded by Internet deception they won’t believe me. That’s unfortunate. Because I might just show up, in the flesh, in person, someplace high profile when I’m least expected. Maybe I can get my buddy Ryan to come with me because he’s experienced similar things and he’s not even an author. RWA might be a great place to start.

Do You Ever Read a Book You KNOW You Won’t Like?

The title of this post sounds ridiculous at a glance. Seriously, who on earth would buy and read a book they know they aren’t going to like? For that matter, who on earth would even read a free book or a discounted book they know they aren’t going to like?

And we all know, for the most part, whether we’re going to like a book or not. Of course there are cases where it’s not always easy to tell and we wind up disappointed in something we thought would be better. It’s happened to me. But usually the cover, the blurb, and the excerpt help us decide on whether or not a book is for us. If that fails, the reader reviews usually help make the final decision.

For example, I know I would never read a romance novel with a cover that had a woman with a flowing gown, a trite tag line that might do well in David Letterman’s top ten list, and exaggerated font with curls at the end of each word (I wouldn’t even have one visible in my home for guests to see). Even if I thought I might like a romance novel with a woman in a flowing gown, I would read the blurb and the excerpt just to be sure. Nine times out of ten the excerpt makes the decision for me. In books like this I usually see too many adverbs and said bookisms. And when I see more than one said bookism or adverb on the first page, that’s the dealbreaker for me.

Now that’s just my own personal taste. I prefer fiction that’s tightly written, and practices word economy. I think this can be done in romance, and it can be done well. I’ve seen it done well. But the point of this post is that I wouldn’t read the book with the woman in the gown, not even for free. I’m sure many would disagree. But it’s just my own personal, subjective taste.

And yet I’ve seen something interesting happening in a few places on the Internet. I just don’t get it. A book reviewer on a review site will read the first book in a series and hate it. They not only hate it, they roast the book, the author, and the publisher. And, it’s usually done in that forced quasi snark way (I’m a bitch, oh yeah, that’s me, funny-funny, slap-your-knee, haha, deal with it), with a mom and pop tone, that’s almost funny but in this case would never make it to David Letterman’s top ten list.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with giving a bad review. I truly, deeply believe everyone has the right to review and express opinions about a book…or anything on the Internet, without question. I’ve left my own bad reviews that range from opinions about books to clothing I’ve purchased. But when the same book reviewer reads the second book, and then the third book in a series where she already HATED the first book, I have to wonder what the mind-set behind this is. What is motivating her to read something she clearly knows she will hate?

In other words, if you hated the first book in the series so much, the odds state you’re not going to fall in love with the second book. The odds are the people who read the first review about the first book will not take a chance on buying the second book in the series either. The job has been done, so to speak. I would simply move on to a book that I KNOW I’m going to love…or at least a book I think I might like based on the information given to me. Life’s too short to waste time doing things I KNOW I’m not going to like.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe people who do things like this are such good, honest, decent, ethical people they want to give the second and third book in the series another chance. Maybe they are hoping they will love it so much they will be able to write a wonderful, positive review without the fake mom and pop snark and forced comedy that is beginning to get really tired on the Internet. Or maybe they just do it because all the world does love a clown…even a BAD clown. It’s been said, and I paraphrase this from the old song, “Be a Clown,” that if you can quack like a fucking duck the checks will keep coming.

"Murder Most Deadly 1: False Evidence" by Jon Michaelsen"


I had a chance to read “Murder Most Deadly 1: False Evidence,” by m/m fiction author, Jon Michaelsen, last week. It’s a m/m romance novella, with a mystery/suspense theme that revolves around the main character’s infatuation with an extremely attractive young man who lives in an adjacent building. The book is set in Atlanta, where some of my favorite books of all time have been set (“Peachtree Road” by Anne Rivers Siddens).

I hate to write reviews like this because I’m always worried I’ll give out a spoiler, and with a book like this, almost anything I say could ruin something for the reader. So I’ll try to keep it short and ambiguous, and focus more on how I felt while I as reading the book.

When I started reading, I obviously expected a murder mystery. But it’s a little tricky at first, because there’s an interesting set up that involves a little harmless voyeurism, a hot young guy, and a decent young guy who seems lonely. In fact, the lonely guy almost seems to have self-esteem issues. But only he feels this way. I felt that he underestimated himself in more ways than one. And I immediately started to cheer him on as the book progressed. I like this in any book, where I start to feel emotionally invested in the character. I wanted to see him change.

And he did change. In more ways than I expected. There are some erotic scenes that are handled very well. Nothing that I would consider over-the-top, but in the same respect they were arousing…both emotionally and physically. I’ve been let down before, but not this time. And this is why I wound up reading the book in one sitting when I should have been doing something else.

Another reason I wound up reading it in full that night was because there was a ring of reality I don’t see often enough. I have known characters like this in real life, where they get involved with someone thinking it’s all going to be innocent and it winds up becoming something they never expected. I honestly can’t say anything more than this because I would ruin the book for other people. But this shit happens to gay guys all the time. In fact, it almost happened to me once. And though I wish I could explain in more detail, it wouldn’t be fair.

In the end, just when I started to feel there was no hope left, something interesting happened that made me feel so much better. No details because that would ruin the ending. But I will say that I’m looking forward to the sequel to find out what happens. The main character is someone I won’t forget, nor will I forget his complicated situation. And that doesn’t happen often to me.

The book was pubbed by Loveyoudivine.com, and here’s a purchase link.

I didn’t see an amazon link, but I’m sure the book will be there eventually, as well as all other retail web sites where e-books are sold.

But here’s the blurb, and an explanation about how the book was revised from the original version.

What begins as a cursory glance at the high-rise apartment opposite soon becomes something much darker and far more dangerous.
For bored accountant, Kevin Mitchell, lusting after gorgeous, muscular, Tony, in the adjacent building, builds into a life changing obsession.
When Tony shows up at Kevin’s apartment, bloody and bruised, Kevin offers him instant refuge…and a place in his bed. However, all is not what it seems and the police draw a different conclusion in their hunt for a violent killer.
Will Kevin’s plea of false evidence save him from the horror of a life behind bars?

** False Evidence has been revised and extended from the original version published as Voyeur, in both eBook and the MEN print anthology by loveyoudivine Alterotica. **

Update: Here’s an Amazon link.

Will "Fifty Shades of Grey" Change the Internet in Some Ways?


I’ve already explained how I discovered “Fifty Shades of Grey,” here in this post. I’ve discovered many books I love by doing this…reading a bad review on what’s considered a professional online review site and checking the book out for myself. With this particular web site where books are reviewed, nine times out of ten I wind up loving the book and wondering why the reviewer hated it. If it happened once I’d think it was me. But when it happens dozens and dozens of times I start to think that maybe the review site I’m checking out is catering to a smaller more elite crowd of readers. Or, maybe I DO have horseshit taste (smile).

I think it’s important to state first that I do respect ALL reviewers, and I believe everyone has the right to an opinion, especially when it comes to books. I’ve also found some of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read by going to review sites and reading the good reviews. The theme of this post is not to bash ANY reviewers or even question them. It’s to examine the disconnect I’ve been seeing lately between what’s discussed online and what’s discussed in the mainstream. For example, when “Bridges of Madison County,” was released it was a huge mainstream success, and yet there are still people bashing the book online to this day. The same thing happened with “Twilight.” We all know how some so-called online “experts” feel about Amanda Hocking. And now I’m seeing the same with with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I read FSoG and loved it (thanks to that scathing review on that one particular web site where books are reviewed). I also read BoMC and “Twilight” and loved them, too. I haven’t read Amanda Hocking yet, but the odds are I’ll like her work at the very least. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that FSoG would every become as big a book as it is right now. When I bought it I would never have guessed this. But now I read something about it everywhere I go. And here’s the interesting thing. If you go to any mall in any suburban town in the USA and you ask people at random if they’ve ever heard of the review site where I read the review that slammed FSoG before it went mainstream, I’d bet money no one in the mall would know who you were talking about. But go to the same mall and ask them if they’ve heard of FSoG. I’ll bet at least half would know the book you are talking about. This proves one thing: the Internet has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Most people, in the real world, don’t know half of what’s going on in online publishing communities. And they don’t care either.

The most interesting thing is that FSoG started out as an online book and did the impossible by crossing into the mainstream. I’ve read allegations about it being fanfic and I don’t think that’s even significant at this point. FSoG has sparked interest and people are reading it and liking it. If you don’t believe me, check out Amazon reviews where 580 people have reviewed and rated the first book and it has a four star average. If a fanfic author managed to get a big book and cross into the mainstream, I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. That’s all I care about. And though I can’t say the book’s worst online critics have been proven wrong because reviewing books is subjective (no one can be wrong when they review a book and that’s important to state), I can say that the book’s most serious critics have proven that their personal taste in books can now be questioned in a very big way. At the very least their taste can be questioned with regard to what the mainstream public wants to read.

As more people in the mainstream discover more about the Interwebs, through iPads and tablets and devices that connect them to online information, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the credibility of web sites like the one where I read the scathing review of FSoG will diminish in time. In the past they’ve attracted an elite set of readers that tend to think the same way they do (or they are terrified to disagree with them). In their small online world they’ve been very popular. But will the mainstream find web sites like this too elite, and will the content they’ve been putting out in the last decade begin to look less trustworthy because their taste is so off with regard to the mainstream. I don’t mean to say they aren’t telling the truth. I believe they are passionate and they believe in what they are doing. I’m only wondering about whether or not their own personal truth is something the mainstream public will take seriously…or even care about. And will they remain relevant? Evidently, FSoG is a good example of how strongly the mainstream disagrees with what’s considered credible online.