Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Struggle -- need input

I know some of you who stop by this blog do so because you like to read reviews and enter the book giveaways I host. Usually, I can rave about the books because I love them or at a minimum point out elements I liked about the books.

This week I've read two books for tours that frankly, I didn't care for. They simply weren't books for me.

Here's the dilemma: what do I write in the review? As readers, what do you want to see? My gut instinct is to write what I thought of the book and why. If I don't like something, explain why but couch it in a nice tone. I do believe that some people will like these books. I just don't. One I forced myself to finish. The other, I'm not even sure I will.

So please, leave a comment and let me know what's helpful for you. The reviews are intended as a service for readers. So I value your opinions and thoughts.


Martha W. Rogers said...

Cara, I've found myself in this spot twice before. I never did finish the second book and wrote to the author to tell her why I couldn't finish it and told her it wasn't a reflection on her, but my tastes which were not in sync with her story.

The other one I thought about and then went back over it to purposely look for good points. Took awhile, but I found a few things I could commend, so when I reviewed it, I gave the essential plot idea and the good things I did find. I also explained to the author why I didn't write a more complete review and asked her if she wanted it posted anyway. Hope that helps.

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Tell exactly what you think and why. I'm a book reviewer. It is all I do. I do not have years of experience, but I have experience just the same. I have had more comments from authors on my bad reviews thanking me for being honest they I have had authors respond to my good reviews.

When I write a review, I'm honest, not brutally ripping to shreads honest, but I tell the truth. Usually when I do not like a book it is because there is something structural that just did not fit. I explain that and tell how if "this" were different I would have loved the book. Or I talk about a character that I just could not relate to, but probably "someone else" could if they were "this way".

I try to find the good parts and talk on those, but also, explaining that overall "this book was not my cup of tea".

I refuse to write all good reviews. I'm going to review the book as it hits me. Because that is what I want to share with people.

I have even had blog readers say that because I was so negative on a book that they have to read it to see if they'll have a different opinion and prove me crazy.


cherryblossommj (at) gmail [dot] com

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Cara, I understand what you mean. Some of the books I feature aren't books I'd enjoy reading. When that's true, I don't review them. After all, I've given them promotion through my blog. That's all I need to do.

And because each book is a great work of labor for the author, I refuse to write a negative review. I honor their work.

ForstRose said...

I'd be honest in the reviews about the books not being "your cup of tea" but also try and point people toward who might enjoy it. Other authors who write similar books such as if you like XXX XXXX the nyou might enjoy this or a specific genre audience it might appeal to.

If there are general things you found about the books that you think readers would want to know include that what drew you to the book in the first place plot, characters, read other books by the author, quality of writing.

Another option is to include a short no spoiler synopsis of the story to pique readers interest and include some questions you had as you were reading that you know will be answered by the end of the book as teasers.

I like to get a feel for the book and can usually tell if its something I'd be interested in from a teaser or comparative review mentioning what other books, authors, genres, type of stories it might appeal to readers of.

WK said...

As a reviewer myself, I would say be honest about what didn't work. But state if it's a matter of your tastes not liking it or a matter of the writing not being good. There is a difference. If we all liked the same books after awhile the books wouldn't be interesting anymore.

So I'd say just state the issues but don't be mean about it.


Linda Mae Baldwin said...

Hey Cara,

I have been in this perdicament from time to time. I always find SOMETHING good in a novel...because there is always something good. I just finished rewieing Rob Liparulo's (spelling?) Deadfall..,


as you can read, I said I flipped through a few pages in the middle....he took it very well and said he will work on tightening his writing. :)

Anyways, you can also preface your review by saying, "I don't usually read sci-fi, romance whatever...but this blah blah blah..."

Writers get it..and as Robert (bob, rob) shows in his comments, it's kind of a good thing when reviewers can point out something specific they can work on....

love ya..LM

ladystorm said...

As a reviewer, I think you should be honest about why you didn't like the book. Tell what the book is about so that others might decide it sounds like something they might like even though you didn't. I think most authors have to understand that not everyone is going to like there books. It is like when a friend tells me how bad a movie was, well I don't just take her word for it I must see it myself..same with books. I have read some that I didn't like but it was no reflection on the author, the next book they write might actually be something I like. Just be honest.

Paulette Harris said...

Yep,it has happened to me as well.
I agree with the majority. It is important to be honest. I try to find something that I like as part of the encouragement to hard work done, whether or not I like it. I explain why I didn't quite connect with it.
Best Wishes,Paulette Harris

Deborah said...

I agree with the majority. Write the review. Be honest about how you feel, say what you liked and didn't like. I usually will sandwich the negative things in between positive comments and end on a positive note. But you should still say how you feel, perhaps there are other readers who feel the same way. If there are only reviews saying positive things, readers who see the reviews will get a distorted image of the book

Leslie said...

I've been in these shoes too.

I am a reviewer first and foremost. As a book I am reading right now says, "Honesty and kindness is more important than niceness"

If its a blog tour where I have a basic set of info that I can post -I will take the easy way out UNLESS there was a good reason I didn't like the book... and usually it has to do with MY taste - I try to stress that just because I don't like it, it doesn't mean that its not good. I need my readers to know what my tastes are so that when I really, really love a book they will know that I am telling the truth.

There was one time where I really thought the writer didn't do his/her best - and while I didn't have the guts to say what I really wanted to say (that I think the writer failed to create sympathetic characters)- my review was still pretty negative - but I still tried to let people know that if they were fans of that author, then they'd still probably like the book.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Cara. If I've agreed to blog about the book for a blog tour, I tell some basic information about the story, which is usually provided by the publicity agent, and never say what I thought about it. Or I might just admit I didn't read it (because I won't read a book I don't like). But I never give negative reviews. And you can tell I didn't really LOVE a book if I don't gush about it or say specifically that I recommend it.

There have been a few times when someone asked me to review their book, and they sent it to me, and I just couldn't read it and didn't like it. In that case, I just say nothing and never review it. I always feel guilty about this, but I'd feel guiltier for giving a negative review.

That's how I handle it. But the vast majority of the time I love the book and it's easy to gush about it. I absolutely love promoting books that I enjoyed.

Cara Putman said...

Wow! I really appreciate all of your thoughtful comments. I want to honor the authors who have written books -- and recognize that I won't love every book ever published. That's the wonderful thing about CBA right now -- there's an abundance so I don't have to like them all. You've given me great food for thought as I pray about what to do with these books that I'm sure others will love -- even if they aren't my cup of tea.

Keep the comments coming!

Ausjenny said...

Cara, I have had a couple of books this year I just couldn't read or get into. One I know was the subject matter and it was to close to home at the time and I didn't finish it but know so many others loved it but I just wasn't in a frame of mind to read it. I did the blog info on it but no review.
a couple of others were not my cup of tea but I know others loved them. Unless its a blog tour and I have to review I haven't posted a review.
If you need to review the book you could try to pick out the possitives and explain why you didn't enjoy it as much.
One book I read the end of last year was so predictiable it was to me really boring and I felt really annoyed with the main charator she was so whiney and annoying but I had read lots of good things and decided not to review it because I couldn't say anything possitive at that stage.
I remember Michelle Sutton saying if she reads a book she cant give a good review to she will email the author and tell them why she didn't enjoy the book and ask if they still want her to review it.

Timothy Fish said...

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use in edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”—Ephesians 4:29

I won’t say I have this all figured out, but I find myself writing fewer and fewer bad reviews. I make exceptions when authors mishandle the word of God or when they include filth that I don’t think people would want to stumble upon unexpectedly. I do not write reviews for books I can’t finish (unless it is because of one of the previous exceptions).

The thing that I keep asking myself is who does it serve to write a bad review? If I find a book that I enjoy so much that I want to get behind it and tell other people about it, then my words are helping the author and they are helping readers who are looking for a good book to read. But what of a bad review? It doesn’t help the author and why do the readers need someone to tell them not to buy a book they had no reason to buy in the first place?

Patty said...

Just like Melanie I have been asked to review a book and it was sent it to me. From page one I was hard pressed to continue, but eventually I did finish the book. It wasn't the story I didn't like but some of the things in the story. I also didn't say anything in the way of a review because if I were honest it would be hard to write and I would feel bad, but I received a follow up and told the author my problems with it. We had discussions about it back and forth. I know my opinions would not be the same as others, so I didn't feel comfortable writing a review. I also appreciate the hard work that was put into the book and the message that was conveyed, and again I would not want to taint someone else's opinion that could be totally opposite.

bookwurm70 said...

I vote for honesty. I'm not a writer, but a reader. I've gotten the impression from being a part of the ACFW book group that one should only post 5 star good reviews. If all reviews are 5 star, then reviews are meaningless. There needs to be some good some bad. When I see reviews I only look for the 1-4 star reviews. If the book has none, then I know that all reviews were done as a favor to the author, and I shouldn't pay any attention to them. I like reading the bad stuff, because each person's taste is different and what might be bad about a book for you I might enjoy. I particularly remember reading a bad review (1 star, this book should be stricken from the face of the earth kind of review) for Julie Lessman's "A Passion Most Pure" that made me think "I'm going to love this book" because what they didn't like about I knew would be something that I would really like. So be honest, and it doesn't have to even be a very nice honesty.

Janna said...

I've had this happen too - (2 particular books come immediately to mind) and in one case I knew there were others out there that would probably love it - it just wasn't for me. In the other case I was really surprised that any Christian publisher would even print it. In both cases I reviewed them because I said I would. I sandwiched the bad between the good. I found something in both cases I could say something good about but I did let it be known that I couldn't really endorse the book myself.

And I agree with the statement that not every book is a 5***** book and if you make every book seem that way then it just diminishes the value of your reviews.

But keep in mind that the author might read the reviews and it is not an attack on them personally (I'm sure you of all people know that). I think that kindness and honesty need to go hand in hand :-)


Susan Page Davis said...

See, this is why I don't review books. I've been asked by some people I have met and loved, but when I read the book I was disappointed. So if someone gives me their book, I expressly tell them I don't write reviews. But if I do like their book, I'll surely promote it. With that in mind, I've just read and loved Beach Dreams by Trish Perry and In the Dead of Winter by Nancy Mehl. Very different, both fun reads.

Debbie Gail Smith said...

Some of these comments have given me a new perspective on reading book reviews.
When I read a review, it is to find out the synopsis and plot, but also what the reader/reviewer thought about the book. Isn't that what a book review is?
I believe that is why it's important to have many reviews. If many reviewers don't like the book, the author needs to catch a different audience or do something different in his next book. If many reviewers like the book, the author knows he is on the right track.
With respect to the author's hard work there is a way to be pleasantly honest if you don't care for the book.
In short, I believe you should do the review with your honest opinion. After all, it is your opinion that has been sought out.
That is just my opinion. :)

Stacey said...

Hi, Cara. I must side with the majority on this issue. Be honest. I've had the same thing happen to me, and I want to be kind about it - to the author AND the readers who will buy the book. So, I try to find some positive qualities in the author's writing style to rave about, and admit that the book wasn't "my cup of tea."

Jennifer AlLee said...

I've had that same problem lately. My solution is to only review a book if I like it. I consider myself a recommendation reviewer. If I can't get through the first half of a book, then I really can't recommend it. On the other hand, we're all different, so I know there are people out there who will love the book. I just don't have it in me to knock the author or the work. Like Lena said, I respect them, give them publicity on my blog, and move on to the next book.

Nicole said...

I've had the same problem with the last two CFBA novels I selected, and I had to write to "bad" reviews because there was no way I could recommend the books from my point of view. However, if there is a good point, I'll mention it.

None of us as writers want to read bad reviews, nor do I enjoy writing them. There is a difference between citing why a novel doesn't appeal to your tastes and pointing out why a novel doesn't work from the writing standpoint.

Give it straight, Cara. Speak the truth in love.

Kara S. said...

Please tell us what you think!!! Even if a book gets a "bad" review, readers still might pick it up if the story sounds interesting. People have different tastes in reading material and sometimes those tastes influence our opinions. That's what makes reading reviews so interesting.

Technically, by definition, a book review is supposed to be a critical analysis of the book. Critical means both the good and the bad. Too many book reviews are simply cheerleading and free promotion for the book. I want substance in a review that I read.

As an author, I would want to hear the good and the bad from my readers so I can improve the bad and expand the good in my next book. When writing a review, we can't be afraid of what the author will think (well, unless the author is your best friend!).

I recently picked up a book at the library that received rave reviews especially on its CFBA tour. I hadn't read a bad review about it, and since the book was in my favorite genre, I thought I'd like it. Yipes! I couldn't get past the first 50 pages! It just didn't click with me and I was really disappointed. Because I didn't finish it, I don't feel comfortable writing a full review. When I go over my fall reading list, I may mention that I didn't finish the book, but without specific reasons for why I didn't like it, I'm not going to write a review. However, if I did finish it, I would include both the good and the bad in the review.

Jonah said...

Be ruthless! Rip 'em to shreds!

But, you know, be fair.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

Cara, You are an author, not a professional book reviewer. What you say personally affects the authors--they will take it as a personal affront or that you are criticizing them to promote yourself. Randy Ingermanson says that as an author you live in a glass house if you continue to truly review books (criticism)while trying to write your own.

The thing is, when you review a book and give negative comments you are also reviewing editors, agents, as well as the authors.

It's one thing to be honest and SAY what you didn't enjoy about it or say that this book isn't something you personally enjoy. It's quite another to give constructive criticism in public, possibly affecting the promotion of that book--when you're an author yourself. It might come off as sour grapes or as haughty. Best to do it privately (as a friend, if you have that opportunity) and pass on posting a review in public. Touchy.

stampedwithgrace said...

I started 2 books last week that I couldn't read past the first couple chapters. if it doesn't interest me, how can I recommend it to others. I usually only leave reveiews for books I really like and would recommend, but recently I reviewed a book and kindly put the things that I didn't prefer and other people needed to know if they were going to buy that book.


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