Sunday Salon – November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008

I almost did not post today – but habits die hard and I decided to dig deep and write something after all. I have been killing myself with work lately – something I need to stop doing. And I’m in the process of making some changes which should improve my life with regards to my commitments. My body is telling me it is time – I woke up with a sore throat and had a fever by Friday night. Yesterday I rested and thought I was feeling better…but this morning I woke up with a deep and relentless cough. So I’m laying low today with my current read: The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood.

I love Atwood’s books, and so far I am enjoying this one. Have any of you read it? I also discovered the movie based on the novel – and saved it to my DVR to watch when I am finished reading the book. Stay tuned for a review later in the week.

Since the last Sunday Salon, I managed to finish reading The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond (read my review) which I loved. I’m giving away an autographed edition of this book on my blog…visit this post to enter by November 20th (US and Canada addresses only).

I also read an Advance Reader’s Edition of Black Wave, by John and Jean Silverwood (read my review). The story is good, although the writing was a bit uneven.  If you are a person who loves to read adventure books, you might like this one.

There has been a plethora of posts lately about honesty in reviewing books sent to bloggers by publishers or authors. Some bloggers won’t review books they did not like; others go ahead and review them but wonder if they should be honest; still others have had to deal with angry authors when they’ve given that author’s book a negative review. I have had only one nasty email from an author who did not like my review of his work. Otherwise, I have found authors to be gracious and accepting of my opinion (which by the way is always honest no matter what!). I have written a statement about my review policy which I think might help. In part it reads:

I have a loyal readership who has come to expect honest book reviews. If I don’t like a book, I say so. But, I try to balance my reviews to reflect both the strengths and weaknesses of a particular book.

The only review I regret is one I gave to Chris Bohjalian’s book The Double Bind. In reading it over, I think maybe I was overly harsh…but, it is largely because I have loved his books in the past and this one just disappointed me. I am usually better about balancing my negative thoughts with positive ones.  I felt especially bad when Bohjalian came on and left me a comment. But, I should also say his comment was professional and gracious…which made me respect him even more as a writer.  I think as a best selling author, he has learned that not everyone will love everything he writes. Later, I read his book Before You Know Kindness and was able to give him a positive review.

I do not believe authors or publishers (for the most part) are sending their books to bloggers simply to be kind. It is becoming more and more apparent that book bloggers are impacting sales, and for the cost of mailing a book an author gets marketing which travels around the world. Even a negative review gives an author publicity (and remember the old adage: No publicity is bad publicity?). I have come to rely on book bloggers as a source to select my next book…so I hope when a blogger writes a review they are doing so honestly. Otherwise, what is the point?

So how about you? Do you have a review policy posted on your blog? Have you had to deal with angry authors if you don’t like their book? How do you decide which books to accept for review? Has the recent controversy made you re-think how you review…or if you even WANT to review books?

Have a great day! See you next week – hopefully without this pesky cough.

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    • Kathy on November 16, 2008 at 12:33

    I don’t have a review policy posted, but I try to be honest. When I look at LT, I think I am a harsher judge than most. I don’t give out 5 stars very often. Hope you’re 100% soon!

    • Wendy on November 16, 2008 at 14:20

    Kathy: *laughs* I know what you mean. I have read some pretty brutal reviews out there. I think the most important thing is to be FAIR (not mean) and honest…there *is* a real person who has penned the book, so being hurtful to me is not appropriate. On the other hand, writers need to be cognizant that reviewer is taking time to read their work and review it…which is a gift to the writer even if the review is not wholly positive.

    • Lisa on November 16, 2008 at 14:58

    I haven’t gotten any directly from the authors, only a few from publishers. I’d like to think that I’d review it the same way if I liked it or not. I am a bit picky on what I accept from them so that may help. I haven’t managed to get in on any of the major sweeps (Matrimony comes to mind.)

    • Vasilly on November 16, 2008 at 16:02

    I try to be honest. If I don’t like a book, I don’t write a review. My time is very short because of all the commitments in my life and I barely have time to review all the books and stories I do like. After wasting hours reading a book that I did not like, I refuse to spend another minute reviewing it.

    • Michele on November 16, 2008 at 16:18

    I don’t have a policy posted….only because I doubt it would help should it come down to an angry author. If I read a book, I have the right to post my opinions about it. That said, there’s no need to be mean about it…just truthful.

    It’s difficult to get a 5 star review out me. It has to be a spectacular book for that. But by the same token, it’s hard to get a 1 star review out of me. Most fall in between somewhere.

    I’d like to think my reviews are fair and honest. I’ve only skewered one and honestly, it was the publisher I was skewering on that one.

    There are some out there, though, (mostly on LT or Amazon) that are simply brutal. Ouch.

    • Kim L on November 16, 2008 at 18:24

    That’s a great policy. I have not posted a policy before, but it is tempting considering the recent hullabaloo.

    I struggle with posting my honest opinion on books I haven’t liked, especially if I know the author might chance upon my blog, but I always take heart from other brave bloggers who are always honest and respectful. I take my cues from them.

    • Dawn on November 16, 2008 at 19:16

    I’m honest in my reviews, and most of them contain excerpts to give examples of the good, the bad and the ugly 🙂

    I don’t yet have a review policy on my blog, but will craft one over the next week or so. I like what you’ve come up with, citing your readers’ expectations of honesty.

    I hope you’re feeling well soon!

    • Lexi on November 16, 2008 at 19:21

    This is an interesting topic, and I’ve seen the post that started it all. I never gave this much thought before, but my bottom line is this: I try to be fair when I review something. I’m not going to say I like it if I don’t. I review every book I read, whether I receive the book from an author, get it off my shelf, or borrow it from the library. So what is the author going to do? Not send me a copy? Okay, I’ll Mooch it or get it from the library. I’ll read the book regardless. And THEN I’ll review it anyway. It’s terrible that an author would be immature enough to make a stink about it. And what does this say about censorship?!

    • Joanne on November 16, 2008 at 20:59

    Since I only started reviewing on my blog this past summer I am still trying to find my way – in the sense of how I rate something. But I’m always honest, I will point out the negatives along with the positives because I don’t consider my review the be-all end-all of a book, just a random readers opinion and/or view.
    I don’t have a policy posted, at this time it doesn’t seem necessary. The only thing I don’t like about reviewing so far, is that some sites require a star-rating. To me that is hard to do, the stars are too easily misread. And there are many different ways readers assign stars, which complicates things further.
    So for now, my reviews are basically just my thoughts, with no particular rating.

  1. I hope you feel better soon Wendy! That doesn’t sound good. Cutting down on commitments can be hard to do, but I hope its rewarding for you.

    As far as the blogging thing, it’s been interesting to read all the different approaches bloggers take. Everyone seems to have a slightly different take and I think that’s great. Just as we can’t all expect to like the same book, we can’t all expect to blog in the same way. Honesty does seem to be the common denominator.

    I asked this question for faith ‘n fiction saturday and one reviewer said…I review books. I don’t know what a dishonest review is. I LOVED that!

    • Jeane on November 17, 2008 at 02:45

    I don’t have a review policy posted (but following what Joanne said, I do have an explanation of my rating system up). I’ve become more careful about what books I receive for review after seeing what happens to other bloggers! I always make sure to let the author/publisher know what my review policy is before I accept a book. I try to be honest about my opinion on a book, but at the same time not mean about it. Sometimes that’s difficult, as I know authors are real people and of course can get their feelings hurt when we don’t like their books. It’s tough.

  2. I’ve only read a handful of books by Margaret Atwood, but I think she’s a wonderful writer and I’m sort of saving her books for a little while longer. Does that make sense?

  3. I don’t have a review policy posted on my blog, but I am very careful about the books I accept for review now.

  4. I don’t have a review policy posted but am thinking that I should. I try to only request books that I really want to read but you never know when you’re going to get a dud. Have a great week!

    • Wendy on November 20, 2008 at 08:30

    Lisa: Josh Henkin is a great guy (I met him at the Book Expo) so he is an author you are “safe” to get a book from 🙂

    Vasilly: That is an interesting take on the issue – I hadn’t thought about a bad book sapping my time to write a review … but it is a good point.

    Michele: Like you, I don’t give a ton of 5’s nor a ton of 1’s…even books I haven’t really liked don’t typically get lower than a 2 from me.

    Kim L.: I do believe we have a responsibility to be honest for those who read our blogs…for me, it is about my integrity as a reviewer. Negative reviews can be tricky (they are much harder to write than positive ones!), but I think they can be done respectfully.

    Dawn: Excerpts are especially helpful! Thanks for the get well wishes … I’m still battling this nasty cough.

    Lexi: It says a lot about censorship – an author who puts pressure on a reviewer and threatens them (whether it be through harassment or hinting at lawsuits) is trying to get the reviewer to be untruthful in their opinion of his/her book. I like your attitude!! It is one I agree with!

    • Wendy on November 20, 2008 at 08:36

    Joanne: That is, in my opinion, a legitimate way to review! I use stars, but I have a clear definition of my star ratings in my left sidebar.

    Amy: I’m still not feeling great – but thank you for your well wishes! I hate cutting down on things, but I have come to realize I need to do so. I like what that reviewer said…that’s how I feel! A review should be your opinion supported by excerpts or whatever…if you aren’t truthful, than what is the point???

    Jeane: I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings either…but one way to look at things is that authors are writing books as their job…without honest feedback, how can they improve or grow? It is always hard to hear you did not do the best job at something, but I have always looked at those times as huge growth times for myself.

    Michelle: Yes it makes sense – but she keeps writing more and more!!!

    S.Krishna: I think we all need to be cautious to some degree without being terrified 🙂

    Samantha: *nods* I won’t request a book that doesn’t “grab me” … I have too many to read!

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