Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On not-so-positive reviews

I've read a few books recently that I didn't love. That, at times, I didn't even like. And I've been debating on whether or not to write about those reading experiences. I hesitate because I don't want to deter someone from reading a book just because I didn't like it. But if I say that this blog is comprised of my bookish reflections, then I should include those of books that I didn't particularly enjoy as well. I mean, I love books, but I am certainly not going to love everything that I read.

I took the plunge yesterday with a graphic novel that I didn't fancy so much. I had never heard of the book, no one else has been talking about it (that I know of) in the blogosphere, and I didn't disparage it that badly, so I felt okay about not giving it a glowing review. I hope that others appreciate my honesty because I'm not in the habit of sugarcoating.

What am I getting at here? Okay, fine. I didn't love these two books:

NeedBeautiful Creatures

Need by Carrie Jones
published December 2008 by Bloomsbury
320 pages (hardcover), YA

Zara has witnessed her father's death (by heart attack) and hasn't been her same spunky self since then. Her mom sends her to cold Maine to live with her grandmother for a change of scenery and hopefully a spark of life. Here, Zara notices a man who seems to be stalking her, for she saw him back at home, at the airport, and now at her new school. She makes some unusual friends at school, where the new gang tries to figure out who this creepy stalker guy is and if it has anything to do with a boy who has recently gone missing. Oh yeah, and there are pixies and weres involved.

I do appreciate all things faerie, and I have developed a love for werewolves, but this story just didn't do it for me. I wasn't emotionally invested in any of the characters because I didn't feel like there was more than meets the eye there. And could it be any more predictable? Sure, I got a little thrill when my suspicions were confirmed, but after a couple of these occurrences, I got a bit bored. I want to be surprised. I don't actually want to know what happens in the story. Maybe I've read too much in this genre that nothing seems original anymore, I don't know. I just didn't love it.

Other people said:
The O.W.L.
Reading Rocks
Confessions of a Bibliovore
Fyrefly's Book Blog
J. Kaye's Book Blog
The Book Muncher

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
published December 2009 by Little, Brown
563 pages (hardcover), YA

Ethan Wate lives in a small town in South Carolina, where it's easy to get stuck and everyone knows your business. There is no way to be different in this town and certainly not at school, where Ethan is labeled a jock (he's on the basketball team) and is expected to participate in all things jock, including taking a cheerleader to the Winter Formal and showing up for Roll Call in the mornings. Then, Lena moves to town. A girl who has been haunting Ethan's dreams, and a girl who is nothing like the squeaky clean cheerleaders and cheerleader wannabes. Yes, it's a love story. And a ghost story. And a witch story. And it's set in the South. The end.

Truly, the story is interesting. But I just couldn't get into it. I didn't appreciate not knowing anything about Lena. Yes, I understand that she didn't know much about herself or her heritage, but that doesn't mean the reader can't know a little more than the characters themselves. I could never connect with her, which is unfortunate considering she was a co-star of the novel. The setting? I can't relate. I can't relate in any sort of way, and as much as I try, I don't understand the South. My favorite character was Amma - Ethan's adopted grandma, the woman who took care of him most of his life - because that I can relate to. And it really shouldn't be about what I can or cannot relate to because there are plenty of books that I have loved that are very far from my personal experiences - but their stories were so vivid that I was transported to a different time and place and completely immersed in the setting and action. Not so much in this book. It wasn't my cup of tea, but others have raved about it, so there you go.

Other people said:
Laura's Review Bookshelf
YA Books Central
A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
read what you know
OCD, Vampires, and Rants, oh my!
The Story Siren



Jim said...

It's not like you're performing a hatchet job. I think it's fine, especially when you state others obviously liked it, but it didn't grab you. Ms. Yingling does it. Or she'll even say she liked a book but won't buy it for her library because she knows there's not the right readers for it. Your blog, your tastes, your rules. Have at it, I say!

Miss Remmers said...

I really appreciate your honest reviews. I also admire that you went to find out what other people said. Great post!

Elisabeth Marie said...

I was just struggling with this question myself today (what to do if I don't like a book)!

readwhatyouknow said...

I think this is a perfect way to end a review of a book that you didn't like. I recently posted a review of a book I didn't care for and had the author comment with a link to positive reviews -- a bit ballsy, but okay by me because everyone has different tastes!

Jan von Harz said...

Personally, I think reading positive and negative opinions on a book is important to making a wise decision on what to read. I am always telling my eighth graders that if they pick up a book they don't like after the first fifty or so pages abandon it. There are just too many books out there to read and so little time to do so. We all have varying interests and what might appeal to me may not necessarily appeal to others. Do not be afraid to voice your opinion. I for one come over to read what you have to say and value your voice.

NatalieSap said...

Thanks for all the support! I do feel much better about voicing my opinions, even if they're not so positive, and including reviews that may show a different point of view.

MotherReader said...

There have been lots of discussions about writing reviews if you didn't like the book - whether people do, or should or want to. What it tends to come down to is that many people don't finish the books they aren't enjoying, and so don't review them. Or if they finish them, don't want to expend the energy to write about them.

Personally, I like seeing negative reviews as well as positive because it gives me more of a sense of the books that are out there and the range of opinions. Keep doing what you're doing.

Oh, and btw, I love your template.

Laura (Reading and Rooibos) said...

Confession: I didn't even finish Beautiful Creatures. I love it when books are set in the south, but this one had very little atmosphere, IMO. To each his or her own. :)

Nice idea to include positive reviews for balance. I'm going to keep that in mind.

NatalieSap said...

MotherReader - Thanks for the bit of encouragement. And I was delighted to find this little gem of a template. :)

Laura - Hah, I'm not the only one who had a hard time with it! Oh, and now that I've switched to GoogleReader, it's so much easier to search for reviews. And then there's always the Book Blogs search too.

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