Thursday, March 13, 2008

Negativity Meme

Dewey is the creator of this little meme.

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Here's why. If I feel really strongly about a book (either good or bad) I'll let you know. Sometimes I come right out and say it. But my enthusiasm (or disdain) of a book can usually be discerned. If I'm merely disinterested in a book. (It failed to capture my attention or affection) then that might be harder to discern in my review. I'll state the facts and keep it probably a bit shorter than most. (Though length of review is not a trustworthy guide.) The books that I feel disconnected from--no love or hate--are ones I'd rate as okay. I'm not prone to rambling about those. I need a connection in order to ramble.

But I do believe in being honest.

There are different types of 'not liking' a book. For example, I'm not really into sports. At all. For me to read a sports book and have a gushing response (and that has happened believe it or not) it has to be really really really good. So a sports book could be/would be a good fit for most readers but not be for me, then I don't feel the need to slam the book just because I don't like sports. If the writing is average to better than average, it deserves a nice review regardless of if I like baseball or basketball or wrestling or whatever.

Another would be a timing issue. There are some days when I'm just in a grumpy mood when I'm reading a book. I remember giving one book a hard time because the copy I checked out of the library literally stank. I don't know what that smell was, but it was awful. The book could not keep my attention because I was so irritated by the physical book. The second book in that series is out now--and I have it in my tbr pile--so we'll see if this makes a difference in my reaction.

One book makes for an interesting example. I hated hated hated The True Meaning of Smek Day the first time I read it. I did. I wrote about it something awful. And that was all before I even finished it. (I had read all but fifty or so pages when I slammed it.) But a few weeks later (the same month even) I decided to finish the book. I picked it up to finish right where I'd left off. But for some reason, I couldn't remember where one of the characters had come from. So I decided to start over. Go back to page 1. This was a book that the first time through I wanted to throw across the room. But the second time through, I loved it. It had me at hello. What had frustrated me before, charmed me this time. It was completely unexplainable and really really random. I still can't make sense of it. I know the words on the page didn't change. It was me. I was in a different mood, a different place. So don't discount mood and timing. Because sometimes it really is you and not the author. So I wrote a very very gushy review the second time round.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn't like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

I'm wordy. I am. I ramble. It's my nature to say in 500 words what most could say in 100. So I might take the longish route to get there. I would NEVER EVER EVER say in a review. "I hate this book. Don't bother reading it. If you're thinking about picking it up, don't. Avoid at all costs. Trust me on this one. This book is a complete waste. It's not worth the paper it's printed on." I'm not that brutal. And I don't even think in those terms 99.9% of the time. That description? I'd say that about Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. He's dead so I don't feel the need to be nice. I will say I didn't like this book. Or personally I hated this book. But it's self-evident (I make it so) that it's just my opinion. I'll give a few reasons why it didn't work for me. But I've never felt the need to say that a book wouldn't work for anybody at all.

3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed?

If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?

If I follow that blogger. (That is if I regularly read his/her blog.) Then I'd feel comfortable saying that I was sorry they didn't enjoy that book. I might mention how much I loved it. But that how everyone has different tastes and not everyone can "love" every book. It would be very very very boring if everybody had the same favorite book, the same favorite author. Reading is subjective and that's what makes it great. Everybody reads books differently. I would never slam the blogger. (I couldn't imagine an instance where I'd ever be rude to a fellow blogger.)

As for the second part of the question. If a person loved a book I hated, then I wouldn't feel the need to say anything at all really. I don't care if someone else enjoys a book I hate. I'm not the book police.

5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?

It does depend. It depends in my part on my interpretation of their intentions. Most of the negative comments I've received are in my opinion from teens frustrated that my reviews aren't detailed enough, long enough, specific enough to substitute for their doing their own homework (be it report or quiz or whatever). I'm not going to apologize for that! I'm not in the business of supplying people with answers to their homework. If the comment is ugly, then I'll delete it. Otherwise, I ignore it.

6. What if you don't like a book that was a free review copy? What then?

99.9% of the time I don't feel guilty for reviewing a book that I dislike even if it was a free review copy. Especially if the review copy came directly from the publisher. If the review copy came directly from the author, then I might feel marginally guilty for posting a negative review. Not enough to change my mind about writing it. But enough that I might 'temper' it down a bit in tone.

I'm up front in my policy. If I finish it, then I review it. I'm honest in my reviews. I think most authors are well aware of that possibility. They may not like reading a negative review. But it is part of the job. If they're going to wear the hat of 'published author' then sooner or later (either on a blog, in a newspaper, a journal, or an Amazon or B&N review, etc.) he/she is going to find a wide variety of reactions to his/her work. Some good. Some bad. Some hateful and angry and disrespectful (you may or may not be surprised what you find written up these days on Amazon). Some glowing in praise. Some mocking. Some sarcastic and witty. It's a risk you take. You can't please everyone. You've got to be okay with some not liking or appreciating your work so that your work reaches those that do love it. I really truly believe that most books have the potential to be somebody's favorite book. It may not be my choice. It may not be your choice. It might not be a critic's choice. But reading is so subjective. You never know when that book will find 'the one' reader who thinks it's priceless and above all others.

7. What do you do if you don't finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn't finish it?

I never "review" a book I didn't finish. What does "review" mean in this context? I would never make a separate post dedicated to that one book, discussing that one book and have it be masquerading about as a review. I might mention it in a conversational sort of way in a post. For example, I might be posting on what books I've read in the past few days, or the past week. It might merit a sentence or too in passing. But nothing substantial. In a list of books--the Cybils, a challenge, etc. I might mark certain books "dnf" (did not finish) but that is about it. If I'm visiting another blog and see a review of the book there, I might mention that I couldn't finish that one. I might even ask if it gets better or if I should give it another try.


Chris 5:44 PM  

Great responses, Becky! I had many of the same as you and I was about to tag you for this one! In fact, I came over to grab the link to your blog and saw that you had already posted this meme, so I didn't tag you :p

Jeane 7:56 PM  

"I'm not the book police" I love that response!

Melissa 8:56 PM  

"Most of the negative comments I've received are in my opinion from teens frustrated that my reviews aren't detailed enough, long enough, specific enough to substitute for their doing their own homework (be it report or quiz or whatever)."

Oh, I get sooo many of those (The Year of the Hangman seems to be a popular hit for my blog). Anonymous comments like: "I was doing homework and I couldn't finish this book. IT SUCKED!" Bleh. (I've spelled everything much better of course.)

Thought your other answers were very thoughtful...

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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  • sports books
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  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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