4 Star Reviews

4-star reviews are usually lumped with 5-star reviews as “positive.” But they are really tricky because they’re usually negative reviews in disguise. I skim over 4-star reviews as not helpful at all. (Which probably makes it awkward that I’ve published a lot of them myself, including one most recently for Brave. :P)

I always wonder: Why wasn’t it a 5-star? What’s making you hold back? 85% of the time it’s because the person giving the 4-star review actually dislikes the book or movie, but won’t admit it. Either they’re feeling social pressure from others not to be too blunt or they don’t want to admit their feelings to themselves. The other 15% the opposite is true. The person loves the book or movie and also, even more curiously, doesn’t quite want to admit it.

4-star reviews tend to be inarticulate and vague. I post them sometimes if I really can’t think of another way to say what I think. But they are the insincere reviews and we all know there’s nothing more useless than that. 4-star reviews are also a vital part of the eco-system–probably because this exact insincerity is something we’ve all had, or been expected to have, from time to time. It’s hard to imagine the world without it.

My Movie and Media List

With Bellevere out of the way, I plan to get back to my series on what reviews really mean, especially since the next post will be about 4* reviews, which are some of the most complex. But first I’ll share what I’ve been reviewing myself. I’m on Amazon as BusyCat because my cat Luna has been very active in the review process. I swear she tells me what to say. 😛

In the last couple of months I’ve watched and read:

Star Wars Saga I-VI

The Force Awakens

The Pulse Effex series by Linore Burkard

Strange Magic

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The first two Hobbit movies.

The Complete Jane Austen (2007-2009)

Anne of Avonlea (1975)

Ever After

True to You by Becky Wade

The Lost Medallion

Sheet Music for LOTR and Star Wars I-III

…and got up quite a list of reviews. Not everything, of course, if I couldn’t bring myself to express an opinion. Either that or I didn’t think speaking would be a good idea–or I didn’t have time–or something like that. For the first time in quite awhile reviewing was actually fun. But of course I should just have accepted it years ago. Cats are smarter than people.

Bellevere House Now Available

Bellevere Front Print DPI with Vintage Letters

Bellevere House (Vintage Jane Austen–Mansfield Park) ebook is now available for pre-order. It has been modified from the beta manuscript in several areas. Beta readers are strongly advised not to review until they have downloaded and examined the new book thoroughly, to avoid making incorrect statements. If you don’t have the time to read the new book, don’t comment publicly until you have read it. New readers may request a review copy here. Put “Review Copy Request” as the first line in the comment form. The review copy will be in PDF format.

Bellevere House will release on June 17th. A paperback is planned for a later date

True to You


True to You (A Bradford Sisters Romance)

There were things I loved about this book, but some of the content and relationships were too disturbing and I ended up feeling let down. Nora was realistic and faulty, but also someone to sympathize with. Not a cardboard character at all. There were also little comic references to period movie girls, centered on Nora’s fangirl obsession with a British soap opera actor, and the humor about this was gentle, but so, so hilarious. But John was macho and I felt arrogant.  [SPOILER ALERT] His search for his birth mother led into a twist at odds with the light tone of the rest of the book. He learned his mother had been raped by a serial rapist who also raped (and murdered) Nora’s mother—his girlfriend’s mother. So both their mothers were raped by the same man—Nora’s died and John’s became pregnant with him. There was a lot of anxiety over this that almost broke up the couple. This plot left a bad taste in my mouth and even though they are not related biologically, it linked them too closely. It felt weird. So—worth a read, because Wade’s vivid storytelling is really excellent. But definitely not reread.

I was given this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Man in the Shiny Stove Mask


In honor of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope’s release, I’ll interrupt my series on reviews. To celebrate this iconic movie, the Galaxy of Heroes game has been showering me with Luke Skywalker events. Luke in those white pajamas, no less. Luke of Tatooine. Luke staring at the sunset–Luke fighting Sand People–shards of Luke–promises of Luke’s gear, but what materializes is not what my Luke needs. Typical gaming stuff.

Much as I love Luke (pajamas and all), it’s his father Darth Vader who really left his mark on entertainment history. This character captured people so much that a whole new series about his early years was created. The Mustafar-like volcanic eruption that followed those prequels only fueled more interest in Star Wars. An animated series about the proto-Vader’s adventures and a Disney buyout of the whole franchise further expanded popularity. And it all goes back to that 1977 movie in which Darth Vader first appeared. When I watch his entrance in A New Hope I can’t help saying, “This is a moment in history.” Which of course distracts from the movie.

It’s funny Star Wars is now a massive trend that “everybody” has to get on board with, because it’s about the outsider. The rebel is central to that galaxy far, far away, and dear old Luke is certainly not participating in any trends. As he says, “If this galaxy has a center, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” The mainstream is always shown as oppressive, boring, and corrupt–first the Empire, then the dying Jedi Order, and most recently the First Order. In the OT, of course, Luke learns that even the scary figurehead of that boring, corrupt Empire is like him. An outsider. Anakin was always an outsider to the Jedi and Darth Vader never fully accepted the Sith or became a cog of the Empire, an outsider to both. He always keeps his own identity even when he’s at his worst and ends up destroying these institutions.

And that is why from the minute he walked on that screen all those years ago people have found him so compelling.


Everyone wants to get a good big 5* rather than other, lower ratings. But what’s really important about 5* reviews?

Amount. Period. Amount of reviews. Quantity is what matters here, not quality. You’ve read a couple of 5* reviews, you don’t need to read the others because they are repetitive. What matters to the item being reviewed–what’s critical–is that there are many, many such statements. Even if they’re no more than a line saying “great,” the reviews add up. If 80% of the reviews were 5* that tells you that, for example, a certain book has a definite audience. There are people interested.

There is a percentage of phony 5* reviews given for some reason or other. That’s why the reviews have to be so numerous to be effective.

Pulse Effex



Pulse: (Book 1 in the Pulse Effex series)

This book has a pretty interesting plot—what if a disaster (a solar pulse or enemy attack) wiped out our electronics? Life would be really different and harsher really fast. We don’t know how reliant we are on these things, but if they were taken away we would suddenly realize. The story is told in alternating first person of three teen girls who record their feelings right after the disaster. Sarah was really interesting, funny but also compelling. Andrea, the sour daughter of wealthy, unloving parents, was all right, but she did just seem a “fiction” character (though her situations were sometimes exciting), and Lexi was absolutely tedious. Curious to see how it ends, but I’m reading it for Sarah.

Want a breakdown of what reviews really mean? Next week begins a brief blog series on the different star ratings and how to use them.

Vintage Jane Austen-Emmeline


The Vintage Jane Austen project is kicking off with Emmeline by Sarah Holman. Sarah does an entertaining take on this, one of Austen’s most popular novels and often called her most accomplished work. Set in 1930 soon after the stock market crash that sent America into the Great Depression, Emmeline captures the flavor of the early 20th century. Emmeline Wellington (Emma Woodhouse) lives in a small town with her lovable, though narrow-minded, father and charming, brotherly young neighbor Fredrick Knight (Mr. Knightley.)


As the insulated and silly, but harmless, Emmeline drifts around Ashbury trying to tell people what to do, the story shows attentive research to food, fashion, and mores of the time, especially among traditional, conservative people rooted in small towns. I enjoyed Morgan Church (Frank Churchill), whose villainous scheming helped give some plot at the end, an improvement on the loose, draggy conclusion of the original book. My favorite character was probably Emmeline’s father, whose slightly tedious devotion to his car business and oncoming bouts of dementia were lifelike. Miss Bates was now shown as close to the heroine’s age instead of as an older woman. While I didn’t dislike the new character, Geraldine, I feel Miss Bates’s age is an important part of her relationship with Emma in the book because it shows Emma as disrespectful to someone old. However, it was excellent that Sarah branched out to create some new character dynamics instead of simply copying the original book into 1930.

Bellevere House (Vintage Jane Austen-Mansfield Park) coming in May!


Return to Yesterday

I’ve put the original Facets of Fantasy back into print and added a Kindle ebook. Wonder why I did this? Here’s a piece of background information: I published this book 7 years ago. Which means I was writing it 8-9 years ago. It was my first foray into making my stories public, and when I returned to it, now a total stranger, I was startled by the energy coming out of the book.


I was insecure when I first started out, of course. What writer isn’t? But I was really, really excited too. I wanted to tell stories and I wanted to get them out there for people to read. Sure, the book was amateur in countless ways. Seeing it now as if it had been written by somebody else–ah, the blessings of aging, right?–I see loads of editing flaws, awkward sentences, melodrama, hilarious moments that I hadn’t meant to be hilarious, and more. I shake my head over it. But I also see a zest that I hadn’t realized I’d lost.

The original version of Facets of Fantasy, published in 2009. Contains 5 sci-fi and fantasy novellas, including the early versions of The Trouble with Taranui, The Amulet of Renari, and Millhaven Castle (Millhaven Castle was later rewritten as “Alyce.”) Rewritten versions of the other stories appear in the more recent Facets of Fantasy: A Collection.

This book has not been edited and is not a professional publication. It is a reference for comparison with the later versions of Facets of Fantasy.

Halogen Crossing; The Trouble with Taranui; Jurant; The Amulet of Renari; Millhaven Castle

I spent the next 7 years rewriting these stories in an effort to get people to “like” them. Although I published often, only Victoria and Ryan and Essie were really new. I got obsessed–which must mean these stories were important to me–with having the Facets stories approved by some invisible committee. I was wasting my time.

If you’d like to read it as a comparison to my writing since, be my guest. It’s different from the others, so in several cases it is like reading new tales, which  lessens the element of deja vu.


Cutting Board

I’ve continued browsing for the coloring book about Pomeranians and other toy breeds. Here’s Pom #2:


Using a pencil app, here’s how blank sketch of her (we’ll call her Pomster) looks:


Now I need to find some borders of flowers and mandalas.