Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions (March 19, 2012)

Book Blogger Confessions is a new Monday meme started by Tiger at Tiger's All-Consuming Books and Karen at For What It's Worth. The purpose of the meme is best stated by Karen here:
"Tiger and I thought it might be time to start a meme to discuss some of the frustrations that are unique to book bloggers. What happens when the hobby you love becomes more of a chore?
This meme will appear on the first and third Mondays of the month. Tiger or Karen will give us a question to respond to and a linky for sharing our responses and developing community.

This week's question is: Everyone LOVES that book! Why don't I? How do you handle being the one reviewer who doesn't like a book that's taking the blogosphere by storm? Do you write a review? Pretend you didn't read the book?

This has happened to me a few times. I read great things about a book. Every review is glowing. I am eager for the book. I buy the book. I settle down to read it. And I am underwhelmed. Sometimes I actively dislike the book and set it aside to never be finished. Luckily those books can find a place in my High School Media Center where they might find an audience among my book happy adolescents. 

In one case, at least, in my blogging history I actively disliked a book and attempted to soldier on through and read it but did not succeed. I had real problems with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I couldn't stand the style of the story which bordered on stream of consciousness. I hated the main character. Because I had heard so many glowing things about the book, I persisted. I set it down an picked it up again numerous times. I think I finally gave up on page 186. I was going to link to the review I wrote but I can't find it now. I am sure I wrote something after attempting it.

I know that every book isn't for every reader. We all bring our own needs and expectations to a book. I like a story with engaging characters who have strengths and flaws but are basically good people. I want a plot that is relatively straightforward. I want conversations. I want necessary description. I want some humor. I want some romance. I want a story that engages me.

I don't like books that are filled with lush description and meandering plots. I don't like unlikable characters being the protagonists of the stories I read. I don't like books that play around with English grammar. Books that are written in a stream of consciousness style with limited punctuation don't interest me. Stories that attempt to set time and place with massive amounts of made-up or archaic vocabulary aren't worth the work it takes me to read them. And I hate dialect. I have been assigned to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at least four times in my years in school. I haven't read it yet. The dialect defeated me. Bumped by Megan McCafferty almost reached my slang limit but I did finish that one. The interesting story line was enough to let me finish it.

I sometimes write reviews for books that I dislike but I seldom write a review for a book I don't finish. I do try to find some positives when I write that kind of review. Just because I don't see the wonder of the story doesn't mean that someone else won't adore it. It is more often the case for me that I will read a book that is getting rave reviews and think that the book was OK but not exceptional.

I have read lots of books. At an estimated 200 books a year for almost 50 years, I have really read lots of books. It takes something pretty extraordinary for me to rave about it. Less experienced (maybe less jaded) readers will have a different response than mine. Also, I am not a young adult. Some days I barely remember being a young adult even though I see and work with them every day. Books targeted to young adults can't always be expected to resonate with me as much as they do with their target audience.

I can't bring anything else to the party except what I am. When I write about a book, whatever I say is filtered through my reading experiences and my life experiences. How can it be any other way?


  1. Great honest post.

    When you read that many books a year it's hard for one to stand out from the rest.

    Some books work better at different stages of our life. Something we loved when we were younger might not work now or vise versa.

  2. Loved that with our life experiences that we bring our likes and dislikes to a book. I didn't even read bumped because I kept hearing mixed reviews on it.

  3. I hate dialect in books, too. Ugh!

    You are right, though - Everyone enters a reading experience with different perspectives, so not all books will work for all people.

  4. Really liked reading your thoughts. :) And what you said, "We all bring our own needs and expectations to a book." -- YES. Reading is such a subjective kind of thing .. but that's what can make for great discussions. That's why I don't get bothered if I recommend a book to someone and they don't love it as much as I do -- sometimes, just hearing what they didn't like gives me a completely different perspective on the book. :)

  5. I think negative reviews help give context to the positive ones. If we agree about a book we don't like, I'm more inclined to pick up a book that you DID like. But I'm a negative-review-writer too so I may be biased. :-)

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