Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Some Thoughts on Reviewing Books

I have something on my mind that I'd like to talk to y'all about, and it might not be incredibly popular with some of my fellow bloggers...but I feel incredibly passionate about it. It's something that has both come up recently online with book bloggers in general and with me personally. We'll call it integrity in reviewing, with a small dose of the question of whether book reviewers are marketers or not.

Now, I feel it's important for me to say from the get go that I am very new to book blogging. I have been doing this for about 8 months now and I'm not heavily "connected" in the Book Blogosphere. For all I know, I could be going about everything ass-backwards from everyone else. I didn't do a lot of research beforehand...I just picked up a book, read it, and then decided to write my thoughts up for everyone to see. Ta-Da...instant professional blogger!!

But I can tell you unequivocally, and this is the reason for this post, that I am always honest with you when it comes to my thoughts on books...regardless of how that book came to be in my hands.

And I don't know if some of this stems from my day job at a library, but I'm a blogger for the READER. I am here for you and you alone. Is it cool to occasionally receive a book from Netgalley or an Author before it's released, in the hopes that I can be the first to tell you that you need to run out and GRAB that book ASAP??? Of course it is. Do I flip my lid when an Author reads my review, or retweets me on Twitter? Heck yeah, I usually lose my shit! But I am not a blogger for AUTHORS. I think there is a difference here, and it might make me a less popular blogger.

Now here's the recent story that will hopefully illustrate what I mean, as I'm sure a few of you are scratching your heads right now trying to figure out what on earth I'm talking about.

I was recently sought out by a first time author to review his upcoming book, in the hopes that I would publish my review in conjunction with an online "launch party". This is a common practice, especially with smaller release books...and I have no problem with it because I enjoy the idea of helping get the word out about a new author. My response was that I'd love to take a look at it and hopefully I'd have a chance to read and review it in time for his launch but I never promise good reviews, etc etc...which is what's in my review policy. I have stated that life's too short to read bad books, so I definitely don't guarantee a great review. He said no problem, sent me the book and all was good.

So...I open the book.

Now, let me go on record again as saying, I'm not a book snob. I don't think any book/genre is greater than another book/genre and everyone has different taste in books. We don't all like reading the same things. A lot of book bloggers have very specific tastes and keep their blogs to a particular type of book...I am just all over the place because that's how I read. But there IS such a thing as a bad book. There just IS. If people say there isn't, they're just trying to be overly nice. Now maybe it's bad because it just needs a better editor or proofreader but that doesn't change the fact that the writing isn't very good. Some bad books have made a crap ton of money and been on the best sellers list for AGES, but that doesn't change the fact that they aren't written well.

And you know I'm not pissing on romance novels or anything like that because I read fluffy stuff sometimes. But trust me when I say, there are very well written romance novels and then, just like everything else, there's stuff that's just bad. It also goes both ways. Just because a book has big ole words in it and is difficult to read, doesn't make it "Literature"...doesn't make it a great book.

So I open the book...and it's just bad. The story may have been okay but the writing just was not good. I have two adult children and have proofread my fair share of papers, and the glaring mistakes that would normally be caught in a first read through were all still there. Reusing words, grammatical errors, etc. Once my eyes caught the first mistakes I just couldn't unsee them. I tried to lose myself in the story but I couldn't do it. I was just way too distracted by the mess.

I get about 3 chapters in and I just can't do it anymore. But my soul hurt because I know this book is the author's baby. I know he is proud of his work...he has slaved over it...and here I am. I can't even get to chapter 4!

If I would've checked this book out from the library, I would've written a short review on the blog and said I didn't like it and advised y'all not waste your money on it. If I'd have received it from the publishing company through the very impersonal Netgalley, I would've done the same thing. I would've submitted my review to them stating that I didn't think it was any good, etc. BUT, since I received it from the author...after much debate with myself and advice from my friends...I wrote him and told him that I didn't want to slaughter him in print basically, so I'd decided to just decline writing a review. I was polite, and he was polite in response.

BUT...and this is the real meat of my writing this long meandering blog post...this particular book currently has 32 ratings/26 reviews and an average score of 4.25 on Goodreads!!! It was released February 1st and all the reviews are from people who received the book for free before it was published. And I am sitting here wondering what on earth these people are smoking?!?! Did they all receive a different book than I did?!?! It honestly kind-of pisses me off.

You see, I have friends who read my blog who had never read a blog...let alone a book blog...before in their lives, but most of them had read a review on Goodreads or Amazon. As someone who works in a library, we don't have time to read everything before it comes out. We rely heavily on early reviews and word of mouth to decide which books we're going to spend our precious few dimes on. And the more time I spend blogging about books, the more I see behind the curtain...and I'm not 100% happy with what all I see.

Recently the blogosphere was sent into a tailspin/uproar over a comment spoken on a very popular book segment of a women's magazine's Facebook page. Someone left the page stating that they were unhappy with all of the book bloggers on there since they were "marketers" and not "real readers". This, of course, caused such a huge brouhaha that it turned into a trending topic on Twitter. But in a way I can see what she meant. And that's coming from a book blogger.

I think the problem that I've mentioned with the "bad book" that was sent to me, and it's glowing reviews on Goodreads, is part-of why this backlash is happening. If I knew that the reviewer I read regularly was always going to give a book 4 stars if it was given to her, I would probably lose faith in what she was saying...and believe she was a marketer also. I just would! I don't think it helps anyone really! But then I'm the woman who used to tell the ladies that came to her Pampered Chef parties that the $1 knife cut the best 😊

When I review a book, I want to try and give you an idea of what the book was like more than anything. I know you're not going to like every book I do...and chances are I'm not going to like every one that you do. I mean, I'm normally not going to bash an Author....but that's just because I'm nice, and I know these are their babies. But I'm always going to tell you what I honestly thought of the book. Because I would be horrified to know that I caused you to waste your hard-earned money on something that I knew was shit.

So if I have a point, and I'm not even sure if I have one or if I just needed to get this off my chest, it's to do your research. If you're going to look to a blogger to help you figure out what book to grab next, try to find one that reads the same sorts-of books you do...and one that gives you the good with the bad. If you're looking on Goodreads, pay attention to whether all the reviews come from advanced reader copies. It's not necessarily a bad thing...but it's added knowledge in your noggin. Know that Amazon has started refusing reviews that state the book was given to them, so a lot of people have started leaving that out of their maybe check to see if it's a verified purchase (although not all of mine are because I'll review a book I checked out at the library).

I feel like now is the time for a shot of Tequila....
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that everyone is a sham and there aren't good honest book bloggers out there. Clearly I'd like to have you come back to this blog to see what I have to say about The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney and I promise I'll tell you whether it reminded me of Fifty Shades of Grey, or whether the sexy bits turned me off (they didn't). I just feel so damn passionate about books and honesty...and it gets me very riled up. Most people would probably wonder why I'd get so worked up over something as silly as a few book reviews, but to me it's an integrity issue.

I'm just trying to lift the veil up a little for you because I wasn't aware of some of this before. And know that sometimes that Bookstagrammer with the largest following doesn't necessarily know the best books to get...she just takes the best photos so the publishers send her a lot of free books...and she might not even read all of them. So if you research before you read, maybe keep some of this in the back of your mind. Or peruse the bookstore/library and just choose a book by it's cover. I still do that sometimes.

Let me know your thoughts, and sorry this one was so long. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook.

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