On Reviewing Books

Amazon Review Meme by Alethea Kontis

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My “Precious 5-Stars” Essay Now Live at Clarkesworld

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and their own score system. As long as people continue to be unique, diverse individuals, reviews will never be standardized (and thank goodness!). But will Precious Five-Stars ultimately become a matter of pride or a source of punishment for authors today?

Read the rest of the article (and comment) here at Clarkesworld Magazine!

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Jenna Does HERO (with giveaway!)

Jenna over at Jenna Does Books has posted a really great review of HERO:

Hero, October 1, 2013JENNA’S REVIEW

My favorite fairy tale writer, Alethea Kontis, pulls off another slam dunk with HERO, the second of her stories about the Woodcutter sisters. HERO is a gender-bending, swash-buckling tale about Saturday, the second youngest sister to Sunday, whom we previously met in Enchanted. While Sunday was a whimsical girl with an art for words, Saturday is a strong and willful girl with plenty of heart (plus some added snark). Her story proved to be just as enthralling as the first!

Alethea has a knack for reminding readers why many of us love fairy tales to begin with. In this entry we are once again given a delightful story with some obvious (and some not-so-obvious) nods to classic tales, such as The Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and more. It was so much fun picking out the various references. Just like Enchanted, HERO is built upon these familiar stories, but her overlying story and characters are entirely of her own creation. You never think “Wait, this is just a retelling of Cinderella!” or “I feel like I’ve heard this before…” because Alethea’s story and characters are wholly unique and distinguishable – not to mention they have so much more personality.

CLICK HERE to read more of Jenna’s spectacular review…and then enter to win your very own collector’s edition ARC of HERO!

(Giveaway ends September 30th.)

Thank you, Jenna. You are my Hero!

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KIRKUS Loves Hero!

Hero, October 1, 2013HERO
Author: Alethea Kontis

Review Issue Date: September 1, 2013
Online Publish Date: August 14, 2013
Pages: 304
Price ( Hardcover ): $17.99
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-544-05677-0
Category: Fiction

The cover is terribly wrong—again—but Kontis’ return to the Woodcutter family is still mightily entertaining.

This story focuses on Saturday Woodcutter, whose sister Sunday from Enchanted (2012) is now queen. Saturday is a big, strong girl who has not figured out her magic, except that the ax she was given as an infant has turned into a sword that strengthens and heals. Tossing away a magic mirror endangers her whole family, especially her changeling brother, Trix, and she goes off to find and save him. She’s mistaken for her lost brother, Jack Woodcutter, by a blind witch whose eyes he stole and who imprisons Saturday. The witch also keeps captive a man named Peregrine, magicked by the witch’s daughter into taking her place. Peregrine does his best to keep busy and sane, while dressing as a woman and trying to both serve and outwit the witch. Peregrine and Saturday are a wonderful couple, as they spar, miss signals and exchange roles, aided by Betwixt, a chimera also held by the witch. There is hardly a fairy-tale or gender trope that Kontis doesn’t turn on its head, and readers don’t need to know about Hercules cleaning out the Augean Stables to find Saturday’s impossible task of cleaning the witch’s bird’s nest both hilarious and revolting.

Whether Kontis tells the tales of other Woodcutter children or not, readers will await her next with joyful anticipation. (Fantasy. 11-18)

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My Hero, Sarah Beth Durst

Hero, October 1, 2013My dear awards-sister, Sarah Beth Durst, has already devoured her ARC of HERO and has this to say:

“I loved HERO. It’s the kind of book that makes you smile from the inside out.–Sarah Beth Durst, author of Vessel

How wonderful!  I’m all aglow.

Thank you, Sarah!!!

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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

My new (and final) review column is up at IGMS.

It’s been a wonderful four years of reviewing — thank you all so much for reading!

Title: Darkbeast
Author: Morgan Keyes
EAN: 9781442442054

I had the pleasure of interviewing Morgan Keyes in July during my yearly Month of Author & Artists. In doing the requisite digging for her bio, picture, and most recent book, I stumbled across the cover for Darkbeast and knew I had to have it for review. Happily, Morgan and her publisher complied with my pleading request.

From the first chapter, Darkbeast reminded me of the high fantasy novels by Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey. Duodecia is a rich world full of gods and tithemen and original magic. Keara’s story is far simpler . . . though it seems to be less coming-of-age than it is the avoidance of growing up…  (Read more)

Title: A Confusion of Princes
Author: Garth Nix
EAN: 9780060096946

I’m a fantasy girl. My father read to me at bedtime from infanthood, so the stories that molded me were born of Muppets and Goops and fairies. I love delving into science fiction, but it requires more of a commitment. In fantasy, magic works based on the price paid. In science fiction, there are entire worlds of economies and social structures the reader must understand while simultaneously enjoying the journey of the main character.

I adore Garth Nix, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when I picked up A Confusion of Princes. Right off the bat, it’s got “Confusion” in the title, and boy, does it deliver. I did not start at page one of this book and barrel all the way to the end — I was forced to read much slower to understand this world, and I’m very glad I did.  (Read more)


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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

New book reviews are up at IGMS!

Title: Home from the Sea
Author: Mercedes Lackey
EAN: 9780756407278

I adore Mercedes Lackey – By the Sword is one of my all-time favorites, as is her beautiful collaboration with Andre Norton: The Ship Who Searched. I keep the Bardic Voices books on hand at all times for my re-reading enjoyment. They are all in hardcover, and the dust jacket for The Lark and The Wren is very worn.

However, I haven’t read a Lackey novel in quite some time. I never warmed to her seemingly never-ending Valdemar series, much to my disappointment. But I was in the mood for some really good, fun, fantasy, and Home from the Sea had just arrived on my doorstep, so I thought, why not? (Read more)


Title: Thieftaker
Author: D. B. Jackson
EAN: 9780765327611

First and foremost, I would like to thank D.B. Jackson for being one of the most patient and wonderful souls in the universe. I fought long and hard to get Thieftaker into my TBR pile – I’ve wanted to read this novel for years, since the first time he mentioned this labor of love full of magic and Revolutionary New England to me. Once in hand, I carried the ARC everywhere with me for weeks before going on book tour, trying to find time to sneak a page in and failing miserably, and then right before I left on my 21-day non-stop whirlwind, I promptly lost it somewhere in my very small apartment. <sigh> I saw Jackson on my way to Nashville and he lent me his own, personal copy of the ARC when I admitted my untimely absentmindedness. (I found the book as soon as I got home, of course.)

Happily for everyone, Thieftaker did not disappoint, and I’m very glad I was forced to wait for a less tumultuous time in which to lose myself in the wilds of its lush description. (Read more)


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On Reviews

Recently on Twitter (I seem to be on Twitter a lot while I’m writing fiction–it’s quick and easy) a bunch of us were discussing reviewers who blatantly ask for free books, and the value of such reviews.

Since then, I’ve been mulling over how to respond to these folks. Because according to some of my considerably more published friends, these requests will never stop.

I am a reviewer for a prominent online SF magazine. I am on the mailing lists of several publishing houses. To keep from overwhelming me with product, some publishing houses have let me know that I am free to ask for whatever I want, when necessary. From time to time, I have taken them up on this offer.

I am fully aware that what I provide for the authors I review is a free advertising service, as much as anything. But what about book bloggers? Those readers who are just really big fans of a particular author’s work, or of reading in general?

Book bloggers are valuable in that they spread the word. What I give with my review is a certain level of credibility. What book bloggers give with their input is reach — word of mouth to all their followers. Both of these things are incredibly important in this electronic age.

So where are these book bloggers? They’re online everywhere–throw a virtual rock and you’ll hit one. They have blogs and vlogs–sites and YouTube channels.

They’re on Goodreads. You know where they’re not? On Amazon.

Take this example: Enchanted on Amazon has 140 “likes” and 48 customer reviews. Enchanted on Goodreads has 1530 ratings and 385 reviews.

enchantedSeriously — who the heck is going to sift through 48 reviews, never mind 385? Even if I wanted to read them all, I just don’t have the time. So if a reader/reviewer contacts me with the promise of reviewing my book on Amazon and Goodreads (etc), what good is this really going to do? In my eyes: None. They will be review #386, and their friends will see it, if I’m lucky.

But they’ll have a free book — one that I had to purchase (at my discounted author rate) for them. For Enchanted, that’s about $9.00. Plus shipping to them (roughly $3.oo book rate domestic). Right now you can purchase a copy of Enchanted yourself on Amazon for $10.98. And if you play the Amazon game correctly (all us bibliophiles do), your shipping is free.

It actually COSTS ME AN EXTRA DOLLAR to send a reviewer a free copy of my book. On top of that I also lose the 10% royalty I would have made on that book…meaning that “free” book is an extra $2.70 out of my pocket compared to what you would pay on Amazon to get a copy yourself.

Quick recap:
Reader’s cost for Enchanted: $10.98 (and I make ~$1.70 in royalties).
My cost: ~$13.70

I should be sending reviewers $2.70 to buy the book themselves. And we’re talking about hardcovers here. Readers can get the Kindle/Nook versions for even cheaper than that.

“But that’s the cost of advertising!” you say. And you are right. But as it is my money coming out of my pocket, I get to decide where and to whom my advertising dollars go. The two things I look for? That’s right: Credibility and Reach.

Chances are good that if you are a blogger in a niche market (like my friend Soumi Roy in India, or my friend Precious in the Philippines) I’m going to jump at the chance to appear on your site.

I did not know Precious or Soumi before the publication of Enchanted. These ladies each contacted me on their own and inquired about reviews and interviews pre-publication date. Because of their professional and forward-thinking manner, I asked them to be part of my 2012 blog tour. In fact, I did the same with every blogger who contacted me pre-publication date–these folks became the basis for my tour. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, and will be happy to promote future books at their sites.

Enchanted has been on bookstore shelves for three months now, and I still get requests for free books, in return for reviews. What do you think I’m going to say to those requests?

What would you say?

Now…book bloggers are all different. I say they have reach, but I they also have credibility because they have made the effort to go out, find the book, obtain it, read it, and then take time out of their life to review it (for better or worse).

If someone is asking me for a free book specifically in exchange for good reviews, isn’t that a bit unethical? Beyond that, doesn’t it belittle the reviews out there written by people who CARE?

Take this reviewer, for instance. He read one of my books, enjoyed it, and–despite limited computer skills–convinced someone to blog about it on his behalf. He loved my book so much that he said, “We could give it to someone else, and then tell everyone in the world to give it to someone else, after they read it.” I am flattered by such high praise.

I am also flattered by the fact that this particular reviewer is only four years old. You can read the rest of his review here. (Do — you’ll get a kick out of it!)

People all over the world are going to read my books. They are going to love them and hate them and writer about them–or not–in their own words.

I’m going to advertise my books to the best of my abilities upon their release, but I am not going to belittle a four year old’s sentiments by continuing to stuff the ballot box.

And this is what I’m going to tell those folks who ask.

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10 out of 10!

While I was doing the YouTube research on my Making Money blog post yesterday, I came across something very fun.

Out of curiosity, I typed “Alethea Kontis” into the YouTube search function to see if any of my videos or deleted scenes (or interviews at Dragon*Con, or fan videos of various panels) came up first.

Surprisingly, what came up first — with almost 600 views! — was this video review of Enchanted from the incredibly cute girl at Reading Rhino. (“Oh, I’m a girl…in a forest…” LOL) Happily and wonderfully, ReadingRhino gives Enchanted a 10 out of 10!

*happy dance*

Thank you, ReadingRhino!

Check out the SUPERCUTE review here for yourself!

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A Plethora of Updates

The trouble with going on book tour when your book comes out is that all these wonderful things happen online when you’re on the road! So, in no particular order:


Look Ma! I’m on stage directly after Neil Gaiman! Here is the online recording of the Nebula Awards Ceremony — I show up around 1:12:00, right after Neil Gaiman accepts the Ray Bradbury Award. I presented the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, accepted this year by the fabulous Delia Sherman.


Enchanted was selected at the Just Jared Jr. (JJJ) Book Club Pick for May! I am so incredibly honored to be gracing the same web pages as Miley Cyrus. SCORE.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT? “Enchanted” is more than just boy-meets-girl, they fall in love and then the happily ever after comes. It’s more. It’s The Frog Prince with a twist, looping in Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk into it’s main storyline — plus some others you might recognize. All of them just work with Ms. Kontis’ writing and it’s hard to put the novel down.


The podcasters at Slice of Sci Fi read my essay about Enchanted on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea and mentioned it in their recent podcast here. Hooray!


Katy Manck, MLS, has posted a very thoughtful review of Enchanted over at BooksYALove:

Will Rumbold find Sunday among all the people at the ball? Will Sunday recognize Rumbold out of his froggy skin? Will the Prince or the King choose a bride at the ball? This bright-and-dark story about family, loyalty, and love in an Enchanted  land reminds us that even the simplest fairy tales and nursery rhymes can carry the power of mighty words.


Bloggess Extraordinaire Grace Fonesca (who was lucky enough to witness my performance with Katy Kellgren at Lady Jane’s Salon firsthand), bought Enchanted after the readong, devowered it, and said some very nice things in a 5-heart review over at Books of Love.

This book at the end was like a pure-adrenaline rush. So many things that make you go wow, OMG moments, sadness, love, celebration and in the end, embracing the person that makes you the happiest in the world.


In possibly my favorite pull-quote so far, Natalia over at Dazzling Reads says of Enchanted: “Readers are doomed to a happy reading.”

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis is a beautiful story that everyone should read. This is a tale that will make you feel like a child again. It will makes you believe that, for 305 pages, rainbows’ pot of gold and leprechauns are real. That spells, faeries and magic beans are real. And that maybe somewhere, an enchanted prince is waiting for you on a well.



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