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REVIEW: The Phoenix by Ruth Sims

Dear Mrs. Sims,

thephoenix_cov1751I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect of a Gay Victorian romance novel written by a mid-west cookie baking grandmother. But I guess it just goes to show that 1) readers should never prejudge a book and 2) any author can write about anything if the story is in them to be told.

This really is in the vein of the long Victorian novels of yore. We get two protagonists both of whom had bad and good childhoods. Jack Rourke and his twin brother Michael are the sons of a whore and an abusive sailor father. Raised, if you can use the term, in the rookeries of London, most of what they know is being poor and being beaten whenever their father’s ship docks.

Jack has found an escape in the company of a troupe of actors and a mentor in its lead actress. After a final, horrible confrontation with his father, he escapes with her help and is adopted by her wealthy brother into a world he could never have imagined. Taking the name Kit St. Denys, he becomes one of England’s most accomplished young actors leading a true rags to riches existence.

Nicholas Stuart, raised in the country by his stern, ultra religious father to be a physician, finally broke with his family when he couldn’t stand the restrictions imposed by them. After graduating from medical school, he moved to London and opened a clinic for the poor. His path finally crossed with the magical Kit and both realize that the other is someone special. Kit is more willing to accept their sexual attraction while Nicholas is swamped by guilt even as he continues to crave Kit’s company.

The two men don’t understand the reason for the attraction nor do Kit’s friends and associates. But it’s there, it’s powerful and for a while the two are happy. Until a falling out sends Nicholas fleeing to America and into a marriage he hopes will “cure” him of his desire for Kit.

Furious at his abandonment, Kit vows to track Nicholas down. What neither man knows is that a world of love, pain, heartache, triumph and revenge will come before their story is complete.

I’ll make a confession here. Sagas really aren’t my thing and this is one mother of a saga. Again like a good Victorian novel there are twists and turns and turns and twists and lots of stuff that happens. A chunk of the book follows Kit from 14 to his early 20s, then Nicholas from birth to later 20s, then everything that happens afterwards. There are tons of characters, lots of torrid emotion and honestly, I felt like it went on and on and on. And on. I used to like this kind of story. I find that isn’t the case anymore.

In this extensive journey through the Kit’s and Nicholas’s lifestories, you show us everything about them. There are no surprises as to what has shaped and molded them, their views on life and sin and the world. As such, I felt that as the story progressed further, there was nothing for me to learn, nothing to show me but these two angsting and tilting against each other. Therefore, I didn’t truly feel emotionally invested in finding out what happened next.

I have to also admit to a slight peeve. For a while after Kit was adopted, I began to feel like he was becoming almost too perfect to be true. He was a natural at fencing, dancing, and horseback riding. He soaked up reading and history, French and deportment. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you said he learned Icelandic in a weekend or something. I was getting set to hate him when you were kind enough to give him a few flaws in maths and map reading inability.

From what I’ve heard of the acting world, it seems like you captured it well – the love of the smell of greasepaint, being the center of attention, feeling they live in their own little world, needing to recap their triumphs and missteps in after performance parties.

Also, I like that Kit’s fellow actors and actor friends just didn’t “get” what Kit sees in Nico, as Kit calls him. But isn’t this often the case? Close friends can’t know what holds a couple together as they’re not in on the relationship. However I wanted to get what it was about Nico that soothed Kit’s nightmares. Why it was Nico or no one. And I never understood this beyond Kit just insisting it was so. And at one point, Nico came off as sounding like a crisis counselor – you must face your fears. You can’t let them control you, etc, etc. It seemed a little too advanced psychology for the era but perhaps I’m mistaken.

I’ll cloak this next bit since I would call it a major spoiler. I LOATHE villains who won’t stay dead. I really, really dislike things like this in books. If you kill someone off, the let him be gone.

By this stage in the story, it was a slog for me. An endless soap opera. On and on and on. The last third of the book seemed to go on forever. And Nicholas’s poor wife Bronwyn. Did she and David Galvin get together? Does she find anyone or are we to be left to think of her as a harridan from hell? Honestly, I don’t blame her for her anger or her reaction to the truth about Nicholas. He lied to her for years, cheated on her then asked for a divorce. Even if it was on the grounds of his desertion of her, she’s still going to be held to blame by a lot of society.

193213340201lzzzzzzzAnd my final thoughts of Kit are that he’s a self absorbed brat. Twice he runs off and lets Nicholas think he’s dead. When I end a book having more sympathy for Nico’s poor wife than I do the two “heroes” then something is wrong. Even my interest in Nico’s later venturings into the new realm of psychology couldn’t jump-start the story for me. Though I agree with Ina that nurses aren’t paid nearly enough to put up with the manhandling that she got from Kit.

Kit and Nico both have difficult childhoods but in different ways. Kit endures harsh physical punishment and lives in squalor while Nico endures religious fervor and turns in on himself while trying to live up to impossible standards of moral perfection. You throw every obstacle except the kitchen sink at them before finally calling it quits yet still don’t tell me how they’re going to live together in a time when homosexuality was still a crime. Ultimately, when I finished the book the whole thing just depressed me and made me feel like I’d run 2 marathons. I just wanted to stagger off to bed.

I don’t hold you to blame for the fact that the style of story you chose to tell is one I no longer care for. But I did want to feel something more than pity for a poor, put upon wife or relief that Kit was finally maturing enough to go back to Nicholas – who I felt should have boxed his ears. Maybe after reading so many glowing reviews for the book I expected more. But it’s not what I got from the experience. C-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon. Kindle format only that I can find.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

35 Comments

  1. DS
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:36:14

    Your black out of the spoiler didn’t work.

    I’m a bit intrigued by this one. I like long Victorian novels so I might give it a spin.

  2. Nix
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:24:16

    I love your reviews. I long for and dread when you will review one of mine. I hope I write a really good one before you do!

    Nix

  3. veinglory
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:57:30

    I really liked this book. It is everything you say but my tastes run in that direction. I would probably give it an A- in terms of my personal enjoyment.

  4. Louise van Hine
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:49:59

    I can’t fault any of what is said in this review – it was very long, it was very melodramatic, and I too felt like Kit just too too, but I would also have rated it higher for overall quality of the writing. One thing that was a peeve of mine was the sense of timing and continuity – the author does have trouble bringing the pace to middle distance – it went from minute-by-minute to suddenly two months later without transition, and this is not the first big sprawling romance I found this weakness in – the well known Diane Gabaldon, also a very high quality writer, has this same frustrating minute-by-minute detail with sudden breathtaking pullbacks to months later and years later that make you dizzy, so maybe it’s a fault that comes of being too detail-oriented. I really did not need to know everything about the different roles Kit played or all the problems with his investors and blabbity blah blah. Sure it’s world-building but it also makes readers skim.

  5. Maili
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:23:51

    You throw every obstacle except the kitchen sink at them before finally calling it quits yet still don't tell me how they're going to live together in a time when homosexuality was still a crime.

    I have to say, there were “openly” gay men who weren’t punished during some eras throughout the history, especially in the high society. This depended on how they behaved, such as not causing a public embarrassment or dragging the society into the public. This rule applied to the rest of the society with their own affairs, adulterous or not, and such as well.

    It depends on each era, of course. During the Georgian era, for instance, gay men were encouraged to be themselves as they please. During the late Victorian era, gay men were treated as potential criminals. The period between the late Edwardian era and 1950s was probably the worst period for gay men in England and Wales.

    In spite of all that, gay men were historically accepted if they were actors or associated with the theatre world, because I think the society viewed (and still do, I think) the theatre world as a place where the feathers of a bird flock together. Such as eccentrics, extroverts, adventurers and so on.

    There were quite a few men living together during those periods as well. They were recognised and accepted as “confirmed bachelors,” which was an unspoken code for gay men. With all this in mind, I’ll give Ruth Sims a chance on this one.

    Sorry for rambling.

  6. Jayne
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:39:06

    DS – spoiler fixed now. For some reason, the one I had ready to go disappeared when the review got posted. Sorry if anyone got spoiled.

  7. Jayne
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:42:28

    Maili, go ahead and ramble away. That explanation helps me to accept that these two might be able to make a go of it despite it being the worst era for Gay men.

  8. Jayne
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:50:09

    I really liked this book. It is everything you say but my tastes run in that direction.

    From the number of glowing reviews out there for the book, it’s obvious that it strikes a good chord with tons of readers. I hope my review won’t dissuade potential new ones if they feel it would work better for them then it did for me.

  9. Jayne
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 18:14:48

    A note about the cover flipping. The plain, brown cover is the old one from when the book was first published. The new and improved book got a snazzy new – and to my mind very beautiful – cover which I had Jane add since it didn’t work quite right when I tried it.

    So anyone who is interested in trying the book will be able to spot it with either one.

  10. Jayne
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 19:31:18

    Thank you for the complement about my reviews, Nix. ;)

  11. DS
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:39:04

    I went ahead and ordered a Kindle copy. I haven’t had much time to do sustained reading lately but I have a couple of conferences coming up in later April/early May so I may have some down time then.

  12. Shannon H
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 10:14:34

    I have to agree with Jayne, I did not enjoy this book. I couldnt get far past Nicco getting married. The whole ridiculousness of the fight that caused the rift between the two men was more than I could handle. Plus, I was too annoyed with Kit to really concentrate on anything else. He was, I agree, too much of a self-absorbed brat for me to care about.

  13. Jayne
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 10:33:56

    From the moment the Bronwyn appeared, I knew she was going to get shafted. Either with unrequited love or as it turned out, by marriage to a man who could never love her as she deserved. Even Kit’s theater people despised the woman and she’d never done anything to them.

    I don’t mind protagonists who I initially might not care for. But by the end of the book, I expect to change my opinion of them. With Kit, this never happened.

  14. Susan/DC
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 15:33:41

    Maybe I missed it, but what happens to Kit’s twin brother Michael?

  15. Louise van Hine
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 15:44:46

    @Susan/DC – It wasn’t mentioned in the review, it could be considered a plot spoiler.

  16. NarwhalTortellini
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 03:06:18

    *phew* Wandered in here through Google. Sagas aren’t my thing either but I’d picked this book up hoping the good so many reviews had promised would outweigh that. I’d gotten up through their little falling out and just had to put the thing down in befuddlement as already there were so many things that just weren’t working for me and so little that was. You review hits many of the issues I was having spot on. (And as it sounds like if I read on there’s only more irritation to be had, now I can quit this one without too much guilty ‘maybe it gets better…’ feelings. ^_^) Now I’m a little sad I can’t look at your other reviews and snatch things up for my reading list, but it looks like we don’t usually read the same sort of thing. But thanks for the helpful review, anyway!

  17. Jayne
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 03:11:19

    Susan, you’ll find a kinda/sorta answer in paragraph 3 of the review. In the book, what happens, happens early so you won’t have to wait long.

  18. Jayne
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 03:19:51

    now I can quit this one without too much guilty ‘maybe it gets better…' feelings. ^_^)

    Oh, I know how that goes. Used to be, I’d just soldier on, waiting for the bolt of lightning that might or, more usually, might not strike. Now with the review load I have, I have to make harder decisions about continuing something that isn’t shaping up for me. But I do like to check other review sites and see if anyone else had my reaction so I’m glad I was here for you.

    Now I'm a little sad I can't look at your other reviews and snatch things up for my reading list, but it looks like we don't usually read the same sort of thing. But thanks for the helpful review, anyway!

    We have several reviewers here who like a wide range of book genres. What do you prefer to read? Perhaps I can recommend a reviewer for you to check out.

  19. NarwhalTortellini
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 04:41:37

    @Jayne:

    Now with the review load I have, I have to make harder decisions about continuing something that isn't shaping up for me.

    I’ve actually been berated by friends for always continuing things past when I should. ^_^; I’ve been trying to make better decisions since much as I like books my reading speed is rather slow and the amount of time I can spend on it not always extensive, so I keep trying to remember to ask myself, ‘Do you REALLY want to keep at this the entire time it’s going to take you to finish it?’ …I’m trying to get it to work more often.

    We have several reviewers here who like a wide range of book genres. What do you prefer to read? Perhaps I can recommend a reviewer for you to check out.

    That’d be really nice if it’s possible, thanks! I guess I read mostly fantasy and m/m romance? But I prefer things where the romance isn’t the only thing going on, and highly emotional/angsty/melodramatic things tend to turn me off. (I, uh, lean away from anything with a shirtless man on the cover. …Usually. ^_^) With the fantasy I tend to go less for Tolkein-ish/quest fantasy stuff (or..I *want* to like that kind of thing but…rarely do I manage, hehe…) and more…uh, I guess whatever all the other kinds of things you can find in fantasy that aren’t that are? My favorite books are the historical fiction/romance At Swim, Two Boys and fantasy/mannerpunk Swordspoint, if that helps.

  20. Jayne
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 05:27:06

    From what you’ve said, I would suggest you check out the reviews of Jia, Joan/Sarah and Janine. Look up at the top of the screen, click on “archives” then look under the list of “authors.” You should see all of our names and by clicking on a name, get to screens that show our past reviews.

    Jia reads a lot of fantasy/paranormals. Joan/Sarah reads mainly m/m. And Janine enjoys steampunk among many other genres. You’ll have to pick and choose through her reviews to find those.

    You can also look under a review header and see tags that the reviewer has chosen to represent what’s in a book. Under “The Phoenix” I chose “America, England, Historical, m/m, opposites attract, saga.” If you click on m/m, you can see all the reviews, regardless of who wrote it, that we have here.

    And thanks for stopping by and reading my review. I hope you can find lots of other book suggestions here to interest you.

  21. Ruth Sims
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 12:47:30

    Dear Jayne,
    I thought I’d take my head out of the oven long enough to say thank you for taking the time to review The Phoenix. I discovered it by accident on April Fools Day so for one wild and crazy moment I thought…. nah (g) <–written with a smile

    I am sincerely sorry you disliked it so much. As for the villain not staying dead (that’s ok. the spoiler didn’t work) he wasn’t dead in the first place except in the terrified mind of a child. Well, to each his own; we all have our likes and dislikes.

    I don’t know which edition you reviewed, but people might like to know that between the original (brown cover) and the new edition published by Lethe Press, I rewrote quite a bit of it, though more than likely none of the rewrites addressed any of your negatives.

    The book is not, in my mind nor was it ever intended to be, a genre romance. To me it is primarily a historical novel. Secondarily, a novel with gay male protagonists. Soap opera-ish? Maybe. Isn’t real life a soap opera? My own life has had everything but “the kitchen sink” — including some situations similar to the book–thrown at it, so maybe that just seems like the natural state of things to me.

    May I comment about the “cookie-baking grandma” thing? When I saw that phrase on the back cover the first time I wanted to commit murder (and hopefully the person who wrote it would remain dead). That silly quote has been thrown up to me a couple of times and I totally agree. It makes me sound rather like a doddering, blue-haired old woman who is writing as a hobby and has neither the talent nor intention of being taken seriously as a novelist. I do have the intention. The talent, maybe not so much; I don’t know. I just know I am grateful Lethe Press did not put it on the cover of their edition.

    Perhaps I’m just a masochist, but I hope when Counterpoint gets published you’ll give it a try. Maybe you’ll like it better. Maybe not. Either way, I think you’re a terrific reviewer and thoroughly enjoy reading all your reviews. (Er–almost all of them – lol) Keep up the good work.

    All my best,

    Ruth Sims

  22. Ruth Sims
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 14:42:31

    Someone should whack me “upside the head” as we say here in the Midwest.
    I made a statement in the comment above that came across as a bit snarky, though I didn’t mean it that way. I said, “The book is not, in my mind nor was it ever intended to be, a genre romance.” Looking at that later, it looks like a slam against genre romances, and nothing could be further from my meaning. I enjoy genre romances, especially historicals, quite a lot. I meant only that was not my original intent. Apparently the publishers and the public disagree with me about the label.

    So to all authors and readers of genre romances, some of whom are dear friends, my apologies!

    Ruth S.

  23. Jayne
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 18:33:35

    Ruth, I read that bit about the cookie baking and thought it was maybe some kind of a joke. Glad to hear it wasn’t an effort to be cutesy.

    I read the new version of the book which is why I wanted to be sure we got the new cover in the review. The amazon link still goes to the brown cover so I’m not sure if the new version is avaiable there yet.

    As I said in earlier posts, from the number of fantastic reviews I read across the blogosphere, I know the book worked well for a lot of people. I truly am sorry I was not among them.

  24. Ruth Sims
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 07:12:54

    Not to worry, Jayne. I’ve been around the block a few times and I know not every reader is going to like what I write any more than I like every book I’ve ever read. I really do appreciate your taking time to read it, and I appreciate your putting the new cover up with the review. It’s really cool, isn’t it?

    I hope I’m not breaking a rule by providing the buy information below:
    The easiest way to find the New Edition is to go to the publisher:
    http://lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm#sims-the-phoenix
    There are links there to Amazon, TLA, Giovanni’s Room, etc.

    The Phoenix is also available not only for the Kindle, but other ebooks at AllRomanceEbooks:
    http://allromanceebooks.com/product-thephoenix-14023-145.html

    AllRomanceEBooks also has a FREE READ (short story) by me about a lawyer who finds a naked young guy in his apartment when he comes home from the office…or does he? It won’t cost you a penny and you’ll get a few laughs. And who can’t use a few laughs these days? Title: TOM, or An Improbable Tail

    http://allromanceebooks.com/product-tomoranimprobabletail-14965-180.html

  25. Mara
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 20:14:08

    I’m sorry The Phoenix didn’t win you over, Jayne. It intrigues me how a novel can work so well for one reader, and not for another. I found The Phoenix romantic–and realistic, in that the characters were well-rounded, with traits both good and bad rising out of their individual experiences.

    I didn’t blame Bronwyn, either, for her anger and reaction to the truth about Nicholas. She had all my sympathy, but so did Nick and Kit, because the author persuaded me that they were all victims of the time period. I liked how far from perfect they all really were. Even with the talents he developed in his determined drive to leave his miserable childhood far behind, Kit was still a lovely mess, as was Nick; so watching them progress from two troubled individuals to two men whose love for each other might bring them to meaningful emotional triumph (beyond their worldly successes)–that was the fun of the novel for me. I also really enjoyed the setting, especially the details of the theatrical world.

    It’s true the characters go through hell and back, but that made the ending more satisfying for me personally. I guess the saga aspect is one a reader will either love or hate. I hope readers who are drawn to sagas will give it a chance, though, because I think they may find it as entertaining as I did.

  26. Doro
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 10:51:44

    Dear DA, I saw the excerpt from the review on SocialMedian today. Since I’d just read the book recently I hurried over to read your review. I was very surprised at the negativity of the review. (And blocking out the spoiler didn’t work. Why didn’t you just remove it??) I thought The Phoenix was totally wonderful–at least as good as Whistling in the Dark, which DA gave an A. I especially loved the beautifully realized secondary characters, especially the women, Bronwyn, Lizbet, and Rama. I hate it when a book just plops supporting players in without anything to make them real.

    Well, everyone’s different. But I just wanted at least one more person to go on record as saying the grade was WAY off the mark. If I were DA’s reviewer, it would have gotten an A. I wish the author had something else out because I would probably really enjoy it. You “don’t hardly get that quality of writing no more.”

    Doro

  27. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 17:49:48

    Doro – the spoiler is blocked out.
    – I’m the reviewer who reviewed “Whistling in the Dark” and I gave it a B+, not an A.
    – You are certainly entitled to your opinion on the book and so am I.
    – I agree that the secondary characters are nicely done. I just didn’t care for what was done to them.
    – My grade was spot on for how I felt about the book.

  28. Eugenia
    May 08, 2009 @ 14:47:31

    My best friend said I should read this review. She agrees with me about it but says she can’t put words together well enough to comment. (She could but doesn’t think so.) So I guess this is a two-for-one comment.

    I ususally love your reviews. But boy do we differ on this one. I loved it from beginning to end and hope the author continues the story. I want to know what becomes of Kit and Nick and Bronwyn and Nick’s son and the lesser characters that were so great, mostly Kit’s friends. I adored Kit. Heck, I’d be one of the women who sent him keys and invitations.

    BTW, you told Doro above that the spoiler’s blocked out. It is, sort of. But on my computer when the curser passes over it, the words pop out loud and clear. And since you brought it up in the spoiler, how could a character stay dead if he wasn’t dead to start with?

    This is one of the best review sites anywhere even if every once in a while (to me anyway) there’s a klinker.

  29. Jayne
    May 08, 2009 @ 14:59:21

    BTW, you told Doro above that the spoiler's blocked out. It is, sort of. But on my computer when the curser passes over it, the words pop out loud and clear. And since you brought it up in the spoiler, how could a character stay dead if he wasn't dead to start with?

    Hmmm, there seems to be some questions about spoilers and how that function works in our reviews. The dark lines are supposed to block out the spoiler unless you want to read it in which case you roll your curser over it so that you can read it. I hate to state the obvious but if it wasn’t meant to be read at all, it wouldn’t be in the review.

    As to the spoiler, what I meant was, I hate it when a character is supposedly killed off but then really isn’t and comes back into the story at a later time. “Back from the dead,” as it were.

  30. Eugenia
    May 08, 2009 @ 15:30:02

    >>>The dark lines are supposed to block out the spoiler unless you want to read it in which case you roll your curser over it so that you can read it. I hate to state the obvious but if it wasn't meant to be read at all, it wouldn't be in the review. <<<

    Oh. lol — Sorry. I didn’t know that. I’ve never seen that before. I didn’t really want to read it, but when my cursor hit it and words popped out unexpectedly–well, who could resist? It’s like evesdropping. I thought that it was put in and then the reviewer had second thoughts but couldn’t take it out for some reason. Interesting. Live and learn. I admit I’m not very smart with the technology stuff.

    As far as the character killed/not killed — it sure wasn’t for lack of trying on Kit’s part that he wasn’t. (g)

  31. Jayne
    May 08, 2009 @ 15:44:39

    As far as the character killed/not killed -’ it sure wasn't for lack of trying on Kit's part that he wasn't. (g)

    Yes! We are in total agreement there.

  32. Walter L. Williams
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 16:22:00

    I want to make a comment about all this from the perspective of being an author, a reader, and most of all as a reviewer. Jayne starts off by telling us this kind of book is not the kind of book she likes. Then she proceeds to tell us what she does not like about it.
    Now, I found Ruth Sims’ book to be absolutely marvelous. It did not go “on and on and on” to me because I find all of that long span of time interesting. I am a historian. I love precisely that kind of time perspective that Jayne so hates.

    Look, book reviewers have a responsibility to try to present as accurate a view as possible. It I do not like a certain KIND of book, of course I am going to be impatient as it “goes on and on and on.” In other words, there is no way I can give a competent review of such a book. For example, for myself, I hate to cook. I can deal with a microwave but that is about it. Would I be good to write a review of a cookbook, or a book about cooking, or even a novel with a cook as the main character and cooking school as the setting? Of course not. So, the point is I SHOULD NOT WRITE A REVIEW OF SUCH A BOOK.

    Please, I appeal to reviewers, to give authors a chance. Don’t dismiss a great novel out of hand because that style of book is not your thing. Some people like some things, and others like other things. If you want to write a private letter to the author, telling your reactions, I am sure that would be helpful to the author. BUT DO NOT WRITE A PUBLISHED REVIEW.

    A few years ago, a reviewer wrote a review of one of my books, TWO SPIRITS: A STORY OF LIFE WITH THE NAVAJO and made a similar statement that he did not like historical books. Well, duh, I am a historian and I write historical books and novels. That is what I do, and I address my books to people who enjoy reading about other times and places. Then this reviewer went on and on about how some part of the book just did not work. Then after two paragraphs, added, “well, now the more I think about this, I guess that was the best way the author could have handled it after all.” Clearly, this reviewer would have done greater service to the world of readers than in wasting their time reading such an incompetent review.
    I am not saying that every review must be positive. But, please Jayne, in the future if you start a book that is not your style, then follow your own advice and throw it in the trash, and then give us readers a really valuable review about a kind of book that you do like. Then I will bet you can give it a great evaluation, whether positive or negative.
    I invite readers to look at lots of reviews, and they will see in Ruth Sims case that she is a terrific writer. And I have no idea about this part, but she might even be a terrific cookie baker as well. In any case, I feel totally confident in saying that she is better at both of those things than I am. I highly recommend her book.

  33. Peggy Ullman Bell
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 20:29:20

    Here I sit quietly making a note to myself to not send Jayne the novel I’m planning. Not only will it be historical fiction, much of the plot will revolve around a character from FIXIN’ THINGS, my novel of women at Gettysburg whom all of the characters initially believe to be dead.

    As for THE PHOENIX, I enjoyed every word of it and having had the privilege of pre-reviewing COUNTERPOINT I can tell you that Ruth Simms writes like I wish I could.

    I highly recommend anything she makes available to the reading public.

  34. NarwhalTortellini
    Jun 08, 2009 @ 10:34:20

    Hmm. I admit for an author, getting reviewed by a person who clearly has a bias against your type of book can be frustraiting, maybe even unfair if you’re getting a lot of reviews like that and it starts giving the wrong impression about the book (though I think that’s not the case here). (EDIT: Woops, before *I* start giving the wrong impression, I mean to say that it’s not the case that this book is getting a lot of bad reviws from people who don’t like the genre. Most I’ve seen for it have been great.)

    But authors need thick skin, anyway, and I think these types of reviews can be useful for potential readers. It just depends on what kind of potential reader you are. Because there have been books that didn’t sound exactly up my alley but that I’m kind of interested in for other reasons. I’m curious if I’ll be able to like it despite it’s genre or certain conventions I know I dislike. Sometimes I try these books that sound so absolutely unlike something I should usually try, and I LOVE them.

    So sometimes I want to hear a review that tells me what someone who doesn’t usually like this sort of book might think. Because there are books that can be liked or deserved to read by more than just the people who find it to be ‘their thing.’ But if only those who like that sort of book review it, how do the rest of us know who to trust?

    Yeah, that’s going to make the review bias. But I think any reviewer who thinks they can try to write an unbiased review or any reader who thinks they can find one is kidding themselves. Reviews are bias by nature. Trying to fight that nature is to me just going to make the review unhelpful. I don’t go out looking for an unbiased review, I go out looking for a review with the same biases as me. It means people who like this sort of thing should probably disregard the review, but it also means people who might normally disregard a book might give it, or at least the review, some chance. If the review ends up saying the book was disappointing after all…well, I guess that’s just the way things go sometimes?

    I’m no novel author, but personally, I’ve always secretly loved showing writing of mine to people who are sure it’s not their thing. Sometimes it ends a little harsh, but I think it’s interesting hearing their opinions, and if lots of people end up liking it anyway, then you KNOW you’re doing something right. So long as you understand where a person is coming from, getting shot down doesn’t sting nearly as bad, and getting complimented means all the more.

    This review was extremely clear where it was coming from and very good at expressing how the reviewer felt and why. So for me, that’s why I like it.

    …But, well, of course, I’m bias. ^_^

  35. Review: The Phoenix by Ruth Sims « Books to the Sky
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 19:00:07

    [...] I picked up this book after reading this review. I thought, okay, midwestern grandma writes a Victorian epic at the center of which is a gay [...]

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