Saturday, September 1, 2012

Novels with Rave Reviews: When You Just. Don't. Get It

A little while ago I read a self-published book that I was really looking forward to. The premise sounded fun and original amidst other YA books, and there were a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

My thoughts on the book: Okay, I really don't get this. Did I even read the same book everyone else did?

Yup. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

I recently decided to write well-balanced book reviews with a The Good, The Bad, and The Pretty layout (like one of the reviews I did last year), but I can't do that for this book because I'm not sure I can think of anything good to say about it (which is why I'm not mentioning the author or title).
Here's what I found:

  • Typos - a proper proofread could fix this.
  • Missing commas - not a big deal to some readers, but I find it annoying.
  • Sentence structure - there were a number of sentences that just could have been written in a better way.
  • Tense mix-ups - you can't mix up is and was!
  • Weird formatting - You know how just the first line of each paragraph in a book is supposed to be indented? I think every single chapter in this book had an entire paragraph that was completely indented. Very weird.
  • Unrelatable characters - well, that could just be me. Obviously some readers did relate to these characters.
  • Predictable storyline - one reviewer said she thought she had the whole storyline figured out and then wham, the author managed to surprise her. So I read this thinking, even though I think I've got this figured out, I'm sure there's a great twist coming up. But no. The 'twist' that was impossible for the main character to figure out seemed pretty obvious to me.

To summarise: this book read like a first draft. With more work it could have been great.

Fortunately, I wasn't asked by this author to do a review, but what if you are in that situation? What do you do when an author asks you to review a book, or you offer for a blog tour, thinking the book will be great, and then it turns out to be pretty bad?

Do you write a good review anyway so as not to hurt the author's feelings?
Do you write an honest review of exactly what you think of the book?
Do you speak to the author privately and decline to do the review?

It's a toughie...


L. Blankenship said...

Write an honest review. With the current scandal about paid-for reviews going around, it's even more important now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Someone else blogged about posting honest reviews recently and he had no problem giving out a one star review.
However, if I don't like a book, I'm not going to finish reading it. And if I can't finish a book, I can't review it.
For a review that was requested, contacting the author first is probably the nicest thing to do.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Be honest in book reviews., Sorry the book didn't turn out as you exppected it. That's why I have delayed my self pub work. I won't publish until I'm satisfied.

J.L. Campbell said...

Definitely a tough call. It's easy not to review when you're not asked to, but in this case, it would probably make sense to contact the author and decline to review.

If I'm inclined to review a book after I've been approached by the author, I download a sample from Amazon to see what it's all about.

Andrew Leon said...

I'm gonna just guess that I'm the one Alex is talking about that posted about the honest review thing. It's something I've been on about more than just a little over the last few months.
To make it short, I believe in the honest, objective review. The nice review to avoid hurt feelings is bad for everyone.
If you're interested, check my "Nice or Honest" posts and my "Be Vewy Quiet" post.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

That's a tough one. If you were asked by the author to do it, I would definitely contact them and just tell them you'd rather not and why if you don't want to hurt their feelings.

Saumya said...

Hm, that's a difficult situation but I'd either contact the author or write an honest, constructive review. Even those help writers!

Krista McLaughlin said...

That is difficult. My advice would be to write an honest review. Point out some thing that you liked about a book, but I think it's better so others can know your honest opinion of a book. I never attack the author, but I do point out things that could be improved on if the writer plans on writing other books. Be honest, but kind. :)

Toby Neal said...

I would write an honest review if I bought the book (avast!) on my own. If I was asked by a friend to review, I'd email them this to avoid the hurt feelings and hopefully help them improve. Ebooks can be updated pretty easily!

Cally Jackson said...

You know I struggle with this as well. If I was asked to do a review, I'd probably email them with my concerns and ask whether they still wanted me to post a review. Awkward, yes, but at least then they have an opportunity to grow. Easier said than done though.

Gwen Gardner said...

The very reason I don't like doing reviews. First, we all work hard on our novels. Second, reading choices are subjective. With that said, I began an indie book (with lots of rave reviews) that had 5 typos in the first 5 pages. Pages! That was as far as I got. But yeah, approach the author and give the choice is probably the nicest thing to do.

Vicki Orians said...

I think if you're going to write a review, you should be honest about it. It doesn't mean totally bashing the writer to the point where they'll curl up in a ball and cry and contemplate their existence.

But if I'm looking for a book that I want to read, I want the reviewers to be honest. Even if that simply means just giving the book one star instead of 4/5 and leaving out a detailed review altogether.

And if I don't finish a book, I'll give it one star but then make a note that I didn't make it all the way through. That way people paying attention to reviews will see how many people actually didn't finish. Maybe it'll change their opinion about wanting to read it.

Allison said...

That is tough. So far I haven't come to that situation, but being honest is important for me, so I wouldn't choose your number 1 option.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Charity Bradford said...

This happened to me a year ago, but I was asked to do a review. Looking back I wish I had just contacted the author and let them know what I thought. Then offer to do an interview or something instead. That way I'm helping, offering a private review, and not slamming someone's work publicly.

What I did do was the honest review. My readers appreciated that, but man it made me feel like slime.

Damyanti said...

This is tough. But I think I'd tell the author how I felt, and offer him/her a choice between a guest post and a review.

Cynthia said...

Yes it is a toughie... Knowing there are authors out there who ask their readers to write reviews, I don't factor in a 100% 5-star book review record as motivation to read a book. With the internet, these days, anyone can be a critic...

Carol Riggs said...

Definitely tough. I think I'd tell them I have a policy of NOT reading or reviewing anything by friends. LOL Typos, missing commas, and weird formatting (etc) bug me, too. I try not to do blog tours...but I can always say I'm featuring a particular writer, but include a disclaimer saying I haven't read their books. That way I'm not really "promoting" it, and I can still support my friends. :)