Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon: Reading review books to the bitter end.

I am regularly given books to review.  They cost me nothing, which is quite a saving when you consider the cost of books here in Australia. 

There is a dilemma though. What is the right thing to do when you don't like the book?  Do you struggle on and finish it or do you stop when you know it's not going to work for you?

I'm in the former camp.  I have been given a copy and in order to do it justice I feel I should read it right though.  There is one friend who wrote a review saying she was simply unable to finish it.
That hasn't happened to me yet.

So which is better?  Write a review saying you couldn't finish it because you didn't like it? Or read it all and perhaps colour your opinion of it even more?

There is a school of thought that feels if you can't write a positive review, don't write anything at all, but I think that's being dishonest to a degree. I'd much prefer to read a negative review of a book than none at all. I think that negative reviews are just as useful, if not more so than positive ones. At least you know the reviewer is probably being honest.

What do others think?

14 comments:

Kerrie said...

The problem is that when you are reading the book for review rather than pleasure you really feel you need to at least get to a point where you can write the review Sunnie. I think you should write th3 review, as you know, but it is often not easy to put your feelings about the book into words that won't put you up for possible libel, or at least a nasty backlash from the author.

gautami tripathy said...

I have had such moments. Where I want to chuck that book away. So I can't say what we should really do. I sit quiet on this issue.

Interesting blogs, links and books

Sunnie Gill said...

I can't say I've ever had a problem with finding the words for a book I don't like. I just state my personal feelings.

I've written a number of reviews that haven't been positive, so far I've never had any adverse comments from an author. Mind you, that could be that they don't read my reviews.

Literary Feline said...

When I first began reviewing books, I felt obligated to review every book I said I would read and review. I ran into a couple that I would have set aside had I not agreed to review them. I learned quickly that I needed to be more discerning about the books I agreed to review. I try and only say yes to books I think I will like as a result. Of course, there's no guarantee of that, is there?

I haven't run into this problem since, but I sometimes wonder how I would handle the situation if it did come up again. Reading is something I do for fun, and I don't want to read a book I am not getting anything out of--at least not again.

I don't see anything wrong with admitting defeat on a book you truly aren't enjoying even if it's a review book. If you were getting paid, it might be different.

wisteria said...

I have similar thoughts with Literary Feline. I agree to review books that I have an interest in the subject and /or and idea about the content already. I honestly have yet to come across a book I couldn't review because I either couldn't finish it or I hated it. I hope that time never comes. Free doesn't mean buying your words. The publicist knows that giving out ARCs is a risk, but they get press either way. It's a win win for them.

Wendy said...

I review every book I read, whether or not I liked it. If I don't like a book, I try to be objective about why it didn't work for ME and then I try to point out what DID work and who might like the book even though I didn't like it. I feel like I have to be honest and I believe most writers are prepared that they will not always get rave reviews.

That said, there are times I do not finish a book and if I don't finish it I don't review it - although I may post my thoughts on it including why I couldn't get through it (to me "thoughts" are different from a "review"). I used to feel guilty when I couldn't finish a book, but I don't feel that way anymore. Not every book is for every reader!

jessi said...

My gut instinct is to say that honesty is the best policy; if you couldn't finish a book, chances are someone else will find it just as drudging. I've only had a problem finishing one book: Me and Mr. Darcy, by Alexandra Potter. I got through it by picking out the worst passages and reading them to my best friend in my most pretentious voice, and then we both laughed hysterically. But that approach won't work for everyone, I'm sure... :)

Rachel Laudiero said...

I haven't run into this problem too often. When I do (the five times its happened), I've written an email to the publisher/publicist/author (whomever offered the book) and just let them know I am unable to review the book for whatever reasons. I almost always make it through the unreviewed book, but I force myself because I feel its important if I'm going to give valid reasons why I can't review it. I have found authors, especially, have appreciated the feedback.

Also, if the book isn't all that bad, and just of a genre I don't normally review, I talk about the good stuff in it and recommend it to the genre I think I falls under (which isn't always the one its marketed under).

Rachel Laudiero said...

I haven't run into this problem too often. When I do (the five times its happened), I've written an email to the publisher/publicist/author (whomever offered the book) and just let them know I am unable to review the book for whatever reasons. I almost always make it through the unreviewed book, but I force myself because I feel its important if I'm going to give valid reasons why I can't review it. I have found authors, especially, have appreciated the feedback.

Also, if the book isn't all that bad, and just of a genre I don't normally review, I talk about the good stuff in it and recommend it to the genre I think I falls under (which isn't always the one its marketed under).

Rachel Laudiero said...

I haven't run into this problem too often. When I do (the five times its happened), I've written an email to the publisher/publicist/author (whomever offered the book) and just let them know I am unable to review the book for whatever reasons. I almost always make it through the unreviewed book, but I force myself because I feel its important if I'm going to give valid reasons why I can't review it. I have found authors, especially, have appreciated the feedback.

Also, if the book isn't all that bad, and just of a genre I don't normally review, I talk about the good stuff in it and recommend it to the genre I think I falls under (which isn't always the one its marketed under).

KittyCat said...

HI Sunnie - I know what you mean. Isn't it funny how easily we can review a FABULOUS read?

What I do (probably learned this from teaching English as a second language) is review the book, present the positive points first and then include the negative parts...

Nobody's perfect after all. I sometimes agonize over the negative comments because I don't want to hurt the author's feelings (it is their labour of love).

I hope this helps!

Yasmin said...

I'd much prefer to read a negative review of a book than none at all. I think that negative reviews are just as useful, if not more so than positive ones. At least you know the reviewer is probably being honest.

I like the option above...and, first and foremost for me is that I don't write for author's I write reviews for READERS and if a book isn't very good...readers need to know...esp. those who share similar reading tastes.
At the same time...I don't say anything in a review...or even in a manner that I can't say directly to an author...in their face.
I'm not a coward when it comes to stating my view...but neither am I a bully hiding behind a screen saying negative, nasty things about a book either. I try and write even unfavorable reviews in a manner that provides constructive criticism but that is also encouraging. Now that ain't always easy...but since I've been reviewing books for over 10 years now...I no longer read books that I don't think I will enjoy...hence my negative reviews are few and far in between. But, I'm not afraid to give them either. Authors who can't HANDLE THE TRUTH should not send their books out to be reviewed...because everyone is NOT going to like every book...even if it is your baby. Remember even baby's need well-baby checkups. ;)

Callista said...

My problem right now is a book I said yes to, I've since decided isn't my thing. I haven't even read one word in it but it just doesn't seem interesting to me (not my type of book) and I'm not really sure why I said yes. I don't think it's fair to just not review it but I don't even have any inkling to try it.

janet said...

I think if I was reading it to review it, I'd force myself to finish it. It seems like a cop-out to quit and then write a review blaming it on the book. There's less credibility to a review like that. Plus, lots of books redeem themselves late in the game.

But if I'm reading it not for the purpose of reviewing it, but for myself -- which is the only kind of reading I'm doing these days -- I give myself permission to give up if the book isn't enjoyable.