Sunday, December 02, 2007

When You Don't Like a Book

About fifteen months ago, two colleagues asked if I would write reviews for their books. I'd never written one before, which is kind of odd since I'd been jotting notes about mysteries I'd read for over a dozen years. After writing those reviews (luckily, I really liked both books) and posting them on amazon.ca, I realized I enjoyed the process a lot, especially when Amazon.ca makes posting easy. Since then, I've written over 20 reviews and, of course, some books were better than others.

I've heard many authors understandably bemoan a poor review. I mean, who wants that? But lately, I'm starting to appreciate the reviewers' side of things. I've run across books I didn't enjoy because of poor character development, plotting problems, or simply bad writing. I'm not a vindictive, nasty slammer by nature, but when I don't like a book I feel I have to tell the reader what I didn't like and why. The hard part is choosing the right words to say what needs to be said.

Honesty is crucial. If I write that I like everything, who will believe me in the long run? Constructive criticism's important too, even though some may interpret the critique as blatant slamming. So far, I haven't read a book where there wasn't something positive to say, and I'm a big fan of stating both the negative and the positive. Not everyone will like my approach, and certainly not everyone will agree with my opinions about a book, but this is partly what makes mysteries and the mystery reading community so interesting.

I expect that one dreaded day, a friend will ask me to review his or her book, and it'll be a total stinker. Will I say so? Not with those words, but I will find a way to say what I think. Maybe I'll lose friends and the respect of others, but that's the risk of reviewing.

In the end, what matters most is that I give a book the attention it deserves and that I use my integrity in writing a review. I love promoting writers and sharing opinions about new books. It's something I hope to do for a long time.

If you're interested in reading any of my reviews, visit http://www.amazon.ca/. My latest review is of Copper River by William Kent Krueger, a terrific read. The review I'll be posting this week is for Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, a book I had problems with. Which is what got me to thinking about reviewing and choosing the right words and writing this blog. If anyone wants to discuss a book I've reviewed, or thinks I should review, feel free to drop me a line.

1 comment:

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author said...

I am now frantically going through all my review requests to see if I asked you to review Whale Song or one of my other books...and to see if you replied. :) lol

I agree that writing reviews is a serious matter. People need to remember that it is the reviewer's reputation on the line, especially if it is another writer reviewing a fellow author's book. That's why I limit the amount of reviews I do and I choose the ones I want to review carefully.

Like you, I can usually find something good, although I have found a few books that I just can't make myself write a review for. It wouldn't be honest or fair to anyone--not the writer, nor potential readers.

I tend to use the sandwich method (something good, something that needs work, something good) when giving a private critique but reviews are meant for the public, or at least for the author to decide whether to use in publicity.

As an author, I would much rather have an honest review. I got 3 stars once for Whale Song. I learned something from the reviewer's comments. I also learned that it's one person's opinion. When the majority feels the way she does, I would have to change some things. Thankfully, the majority gave Whale Song 4-5 stars.

Reviewers need to keep their integrity. I now won't publicly post a review with less than 3 stars. 3 in my books means there's something good about the book, but maybe editing flaws or plot/character flaws or a bad ending. 4 means a very good book, solid writing and story. 5 stars - I reserve for the very best must reads.

Stay true to those you review! And to you! Otherwise how will we know the books you review are really any good? :)

Cheryl