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Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Few Last Thoughts and a 2-Star Review

Recently, the writing group I'm a part of on Facebook was talking about a specific review on a book. It was an out there, 1-star review that said, "I hate my EX." While quite amusing, it did spark a conversation on what reviews authors like to see. One point that was brought up was important enough that I thought I'd address it here.

Remember the author has no control over the quality of printed books or the shipping times. The only time they have control is if they're shipping out the books themselves. However, in a marketplace such as Amazon, that's rarely the case. Most independent authors choose to use Amazon's CreateSpace to handle the printing and Amazon to handle the shipping. If the book you receive is of inferior quality, then feel free to mention it in the review. However, and this is important, please do not knock stars off the review because of this. Please rate the book based on the story and the author's ability to write.

I'll admit that idea is backwards, because most of the time we write reviews on products specifically aimed at quality and how well it does what it was meant to do. For example, a bathroom scale. We would review how accurate it is, how it looks, how well it stands up to use, etc. Books are a different animal. What they are "meant to do" is sweep us off to another land, another time, another whatever and let us experience the world through another viewpoint. And that is what we want to review. How well did the author do?

With that in mind, here's the one and only 2-star review I've written and posted publicly. The author did a smashing job writing and editing, but in my opinion, missed with the story line itself.

Brandye Dui-ErĂ¢th was born under a blood red moon and in the midst of a fire that claimed his parents’ lives while leaving him untouched. Because of these auspicious beginnings, no one trusted him, not even when his grandfather came to claim him in order to raise him and took him to another town. The story of his birth seemed to follow him wherever he went.
Brandye grew up on his grandfather’s tales of a Darkness that claimed the rest of the world, leaving Consolation as the only place where Light still prevailed. Coupled with a curiosity about the world around him, fostered by his grandfather, Brandye grew up in a time when Darkness began to creep across the final bastion of light.

Having found only friends in a single family that didn’t look down upon him and the circumstances of his birth, Brandye grew and became a young man in charge of his destiny.

My Opinion:

I have just done what I swore I’d never do; which is post a 2-star review. I normally keep these silent and contact the author directly. However, this is a different case entirely. The story itself is well-written and there are almost no errors in the manuscript itself. That is impressive. And for many, this book may be great. I read all 250+ pages of it just fine.

As a writer, I’m well aware of the need to create an elaborate back story for characters, especially the main character, in order to be able to show a rich and complete character to the reader. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that’s all this book was. It was the intricate back story that tells us what made Brandye what he is. I kept waiting for the story to fully develop and things to happen. While there are great scenes in the book where I thought, “Here we go, there’s the story,” it would fall short and back up a bit. Those great areas could easily have been worked into a different book as flashbacks, or something similar, so we could see what happened to make Brandye the way he was. When this book ended, I thought, “Now we reach what should have been the first book.”

Do not get me wrong. This entire book was well-written. That is the reason why I’m leaving a 2-star review for the first time. There are plenty of people out there that may very well disagree with me and believe this made a terrific first book to what appears will be a great series. I will admit that I’m intrigued and would be willing to read the second book to see what happens next. There are so many ways this could go from the end point that I’m fascinated to see what will happen.


mshatch said...

I'm always reluctant to post poor reviews of books, but I have to say as an author, if I got that review I wouldn't be too upset. You wrote a fair and balanced review, and most important, explained exactly why the book didn't live up to your expectations.

dolorah said...

A well written review. Sometimes its good for an author to know exactly how they missed the mark, and can learn from the feedback. Not all authors - especially indie pubbed - access tools such as critique partners or pay for editing. They rely on friends and family to tell them how great their writing is.

I understand the authors do not always have control over the quality of the book being delivered, mostly with the printed book. Physical damage to the book is just a matter of sending it back to the warehouse and requesting a new book. But self publishing an ebook is another story. If the quality of the formatting is poor, there are many technical errors, no matter how good the writing, I will not be able to fully immerse in the book. I've gotten print books that were as poorly edited and formatted also. For me, anything that pulls me out of the story gets reviewed. And unfortunately, indie authors take the brunt of that negativity as they has formatted, edited, and produced their own works.

But when the formatting/editing is poor and the author did not self publish, then I don't fault the author, and may mention it in the review, but not take any stars away. I have also read books that were perfectly edited, well written, and completely unengaging. I might leave a 3 star review with what did not work for me, and word it is such a way that other readers who do like that style, will ignore the stars and quickly swoop in to purchase. What doesn't appeal to one reader might appeal to another. Normally though, if the book just didn't grab me, I don't review. I only leave reviews of less than 4 stars if the author has asked for the review specifically.

Still, if you self publish, ebook or print, the quality of what is between the covers is the author responsibility, and in my opinion, subject to the review. Physical damage or late shipping is not a review issue. Neither is whether or not you know and like the author.

Liz A. said...

I read a book like that once, years ago. I don't know if there was a follow up to it, for that would have been an interesting book.