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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reading Books is Easy. It's Reviewing That's Hard

 So you may have noticed I haven't written many reviews lately. I'm having a bit of an existential crisis. Every time I start to write a review, I freeze. I don't know what to say anymore. The mantra I started with was be honest about my opinions on each book. Try to give people reading the review a good sense of the story, and what it includes. There is a huge range of preferences, and everyone has their reading moods as well. At first I didn't even want to rate via stars, but then realized I was mentally rating them anyhow so I might as well own up to it.

I don't get off on trashing books. I've seen reviewers who revel in the one star review. I try to reserve that for books I can't bring myself to finish, and mostly I simply mark them DNF and leave it at that. Writing a rant about how much something sucks makes me feel like crap, and makes my whole day suck. Not that there aren't plenty of books who deserve the one star, and as a reader I'd like to be warned before I spend money on a book which should be chained to a stone and thrown to the bottom of the sea. It's really not fun for me to do though, and since there are people who I enjoy I'll leave it to them.

In many cases the books I review are provided to me by the author in exchange for a review. They give me their literary baby wrapped in a blanket of hope created by endless hours of effort. Authors want validation that the effort was worth it. They want someone to love their baby as they do. It's really hard to tell someone their baby is ugly or that the hours would have been better spent cleaning out their garage. I've been the person who handed over my creation hoping for positive feedback, only to be crushed when it was snubbed or even worse, ignored. As a friend of mine would say, “That sucks monkey balls!” I do not even want to know the origin of that phrase, but it does seem appropriate.

What about the mediocre? Those books stranded somewhere between the Pulitzer and Davy Jones' locker? The bell curve is no lie. The majority of titles land in the middle with 3 stars and a lukewarm reception. They're not painful to read. They're not rewarding either. These are the books I can put down with no regrets and go do the laundry. Time to make dinner? No problem. This story can wait until I have time to get back to it. Another hot title catches my attention? I'll drop the mediocre book to start reading the hot title, and come back to the mediocre book later. Maybe. I'm not sure rating a book 3 stars isn't more insulting to authors than 1 star.

To all authors, I highly recommend a stiff drink and donning Kevlar before reading any reviews. Not everyone likes every book, movie, or even blog. There are going to be as many haters as lovers. I salute you for having balls (or boobs) enough to write something and put it out there at all. If your book has less than a dozen grammatical errors, you managed to finish writing an entire book, and the story is coherent, you're already way ahead of the pack. You've accomplished something major before any reviews are written. Count each star as a win, and focus on enjoying writing your next book.

I have my pet peeves as much as the next person. I hate bad grammar with a fiery passion. However, a handful of mistakes doesn't ruin a really good story. The book doesn't have to be the next “Pride and Prejudice” for me to love it. I simply want well written fiction which is compelling enough to take my brain on an adventure cruise. It has to be able to make me forget the mice in the garage, the check engine light on the car, and the mud the dogs just tracked onto the carpet.

I'm not a fan girl who wants to squee about my newest obsession. I don't have an unending supply of cool memes with which to illustrate my reviews. What I have is plenty of opinions which I didn't used to have a problem sharing. Now, I have reader's guilt. I feel badly about not liking a title more than I do. I think I'm going to try to re-start my reviewing motor by rating books I truly love, and go from there. If this blog seems to be overly positive, and like it's squirting review rainbows for the next couple of months, now you'll know why. Don't worry. I don't think it will be long before I'm back to dishing up hard truths about every title I read. Shy and subtle are simply not qualities I posses. You may have noticed. LOL!

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