Thursday, June 20, 2013

When Do You "Not" Leave a Review?

I'm always on the lookout for the next book to read, and there are frequently good reasons to choose the ones that I ultimately select. In this world of highly competitive authors, I'm starting to feel a little like I do when I go shopping: you can't buy anything unless it's on sale. While that might always have been true (or at least close), these days it's much more attractive to take that book that is "free for a limited time," or at an "introductory price." Granted, I will still pay regular price for the books that I know I want to read, authors I know and trust, or recommendations from friends whose opinions I trust.

The last few books that I've read were disappointing. One author I'd read before and thoroughly enjoyed, so expectations were high. Realization was low. Hoping it was a fluke, I've downloaded another book by her with my fingers crossed. Another was by an author I know personally. Those are probably the hardest, because when you like that author as a person, again, you have high hopes. Again, I was disappointed. The story was excellent, but the writing was a struggle. I almost put it down after the first couple of chapters, but I'm a compulsive finisher, and so I finished it.

I have a hard time reading stories in the "omniscient" point of view. Too often it feels like "head hopping" and you lose track of who's saying what or who's doing what. The last book I read also did a lot of "telling" of the story rather than "showing." And not only did it "tell," it repeated itself. The author had some excellent foreshadowing of events that drew me in, some nice characterizations. There was a lot of positive going on in that book. As a reader, I like to be drawn into the plot, though, and not hit over the head with it. Repeatedly.

I guess this is more or less my review of that book, since I don't intend to leave one for her on the book sites. I find it difficult to recommend, and because I like the author on a personal level, I don't want to dis her on a public level. I'm normally not shy about leaving reviews. Authors want them, need them. The good and the bad. A lot of hard work goes into writing a novel, and I always take that into consideration.

As an author, you learn to take the good with the bad. I'm very excited that I'm getting good reviews for Mist on the Meadow! But I don't expect the story to resonate with everyone. I had one review that was 2 of 5 stars, and yet the reviewer said some very kind things that, to my eye, still recommended it. As I was chatting with one of my other author buddies the other day, we joked about fragile egos and shoring ourselves up for that negative review that you know is just moments away from being posted. Books are subjective. You can't please everyone.

My friend wrote/writes a series of books, and she pointed out that someone had left reviews on every one of the series that were basically identical. And negative. Which begs the question, why did they read every book in the series if they didn't like it? As an example, I read the first several Diana Gabaldon books and was enraptured by the first two. From that point, they seemed to go downhill, and my apologies to Ms. Gabaldon, but I will not be reading any more of her books. I stuck with her through her last one, but the last three have been a struggle, and the last one just plain made me angry at having wasted my time. I'm afraid I've lost interest in the characters.

So to the point - when do you not leave a review? For me, the only time is when I know the author personally and that "nice person" part of me doesn't want to bruise a fragile author ego (which we all have). Reading a negative review from a random reader doesn't phase you nearly as much as one from a peer, and in this case, that author had an endorsement from a well-known peer. So maybe I missed something. Maybe it was that subjective part of my brain that didn't engage in her story. The self-important part of me would argue that the well-known peer didn't actually read it, or was given a synopsis.  The humbler side of me argues that the story was good.

My advice to you - always leave a review after reading a book. The next best thing to word of mouth advertising is a review, and in this highly competitive world, we need all the promoting we can get. If you are compelled to leave a negative review, take into consideration whether this book is "not for me" or "a piece of crap." Balance the good with the bad. Be honest, but be constructive, not destructive.



  1. Thank you for writing this. I've loved all of your books, except Mist In The Meadow. Maybe it was the frame of mind when I read it or the fact that I had just come off of reading another book during that time period too that I didn't like at all. You are an excellent writer, but like you said, sometimes a book just isn't for the reader!

    1. My dad said it was my best work ever, my mom said I'd gone too far. Mist on the Meadow was a little different for me. Even my favorite authors don't always resonate with me. The next one should be more of what you're used to.