What's in a positive review?

I end all my reviews by disclosing how I got hold of the book. I'm told it's important to declare when you've been asked to review a book, and I can see it makes sense--"I received a free copy of this book from the author / publisher / publicist / blog tour organizer etc... in exchange for my honest review." But I add the disclosures for my own purposes too, so I can keep track of which books I "bought" free as a result of good advertising, which ones I was given, which ones I have in real-book format, which came from friends, and which are just stories I spotted in the store and really wanted to read. Still, as I hope my disclosures imply, all my reviews are "honest"--honest guv.

The trouble is, while looking for places to post my reviews, I've been invited to some groups that insist on "positive reviews only." Now I find I'm not sure sure what constitutes a positive review. Is it positive if I encourage readers who'll like the book and discourage others? Is it positive if I make sure I always find something to praise? Or is it only positive if I fall over myself with compliments and fail to mention any reservations?

I suppose I could write disclosures that state "I was given this book in exchange for my positive review." But seriously, I wouldn't accept the book under such circumstances. So I guess I'll keep on reviewing honestly, and try to be more careful which sites I join.

Of course, there's always the friends who complain I'm too positive anyway...

Last week was busy. The sun came out and I didn't read enough. Only five book reviews for now, all honest, all best viewed with coffee.

A Cup Full of Midnight, by Jaden Terrell must be one of my favorite books of this year. Lost children, suicide, murder, a private investigator with a heart for his family and friends, a gentle touch with strangers, strength and violence for the bad guys, and a deeply honest recognition of his own failings, this one kept me glued to the pages from start to finish. It's a psychologically scary tale, plausibly real, with a deeply honest approach to modern life. AIDS, predators, forgiveness and love all intertwine, making it a tale best read with a 5-star intense cup of coffee, perhaps chased with a 4-star elegant cup afterwards while you wait for the characters to let go.

Shaman, Friend, Enemy by M. Terry Green is second in the techo-shaman mystery series but stands alone perfectly. A whole year has passed so the world has changed since book 1. Livvy's a successful techno-shaman chased by the paparazzi. SK is a fascinating love interest. And the middle and underworlds remain infinitely changeable, darkly threatening, and intriguingly described. Livvy heals by mending fractured souls, finding lost selves, and relieving the wounds the fester beyond medicine's decree. But her own past wounds are catching up with her in this tale and the story's pleasingly dark, smooth and sharp, and intriguingly wise. Best enjoyed with a 3-star well-balanced full-flavored coffee.

Warning Signs by John Grover is another short story from his Creatures and Crypts collection, and he had me at "tennis ball." A scary story told from the sweetly loyal point of view of man's best friend, this one's a quick and fascinating read, best enjoyed with a light crisp one-star coffee.

D.W. Hawkin's The Sentient Fire goes to the other end of the spectrum with an epic-length beginning to an epic fantasy series. He's written some of the best descriptions of magic I've ever enjoyed as characters reach for power within and blend it with the world around. The characters journey to distant parts, filling their time by teaching and remembering their world's extensive history. The fantasy world is described in amazing detail, fully realized from medieval politics, geography and climate, to ancient history and myth. Swords, sorcery and a very complete world, for swords and sorcery fans in search of a serious read, this complex tale's best enjoyed with a 4-star complex coffee.

More swords jump from the pages of the Dark Age: Survivors of the Pulse, by Jeff W. Horton. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where faith and science reunited just before the world fell apart, this tells the tale of survivors 500 years after an EMP pulse destroyed civilization. Rather like a computer game, it collects a band of randomly redeemable characters, gives them seven artifacts to recover, and leads them on a journey to the scientists secret weapon, one that just might save everything. Best solve these puzzles and follow these heroes with a 4-star complex coffee.


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