First things first. The winner of Jana's book is . . .
To be honest, it was DeNae first but since I happen to know that she already has a copy or two of this book, I did good old Random Number Generator again and it spit out Susan. So hit me up with your address and I'll send it to you, friend.
Next, I'm doing a book review. But I need to give you a little background first. Oh, who are we kidding? A LOT of background. (What, you thought you were reading someone else's blog?)
I started this blog with the intention of discussing my writing journey, and also reviewing books. I sometimes do those things but not a lot anymore. There are a lot of reasons for that but we'll just talk about the books. First of all, I think I'd get bored if I posted book reviews all the time because I'm perfectly happy spitting out a sentence or three on the books I read on Goodreads. So if you want to know what I think about books, go be my friend there.
Secondly, I'm a writer. I know it's inevitable that I'm going to get bad reviews, but I'm not looking forward to it. Why would I do that to other people? This is ESPECIALLY true of LDS writers, whether or not they write LDS fiction, because as Josi Kilpack says, we're in a very small sandbox and it behooves us to play nicely.
But back to when I first started my blog, a couple of people asked me if I'd review their books. I had met both of these people in real life, liked talking to them, and idiotically thought this would mean I'd like their books. So I committed to a date to be on their blog tour and set about reading the book in each case. Both times, I hated the book. And there in lay the quandary.
I'm a very honest person and I hope to be the kind of person whose opinion carries some weight because I make discerning choices. Like for example, all of my friends in real life know that if I say a book is good, it's good. They might not like it but it's probably at least worth the read. I'd like my blog friends to know that, too. Therefore, I only post reviews of books I really like.
So now I was stuck. I didn't like these books but had already committed to blogging about them. Generally, people say "I'd love it if you'd review my book" but they mean, "I'd love it if you'd review my book POSITIVELY." They don't really want you to tell the truth about what you thought. And when it's someone you know, you have to weigh your friendship or even cordial acquaintance against your vaunted credibility.
I couldn't bring myself to say I liked either book. I just couldn't do it. But I was willing as a friend to help them spread the word by throwing up a picture of the book, a synopsis, and an interview with the author type of thing. It wasn't my favorite compromise because there's still an implicit endorsement there, but it was all I could think to do to preserve the relationships after already committing to do the reviews.
However, I'm smart-ish, and I learned. I have since been asked to participate in blog tours and my response is, "I'm willing to read the book but if I can't give the book a "B" grade or better, then I won't post about it, and I'll gladly pass it on to another reader of your choice at my expense who would be willing to review it instead. Can you live with that?"
This is what happened when Tamara Hart Heiner contacted me about reviewing her book Perilous.
I didn't like it. So why am I posting a review when I'd have to grade this less than a B?
Because SHE TOLD ME TO. Seriously.
I emailed her and explained. "Hey, remember our little agreement where I don't really do reviews if it's below a B? How about if I just link to your cover, your contest, etc.?"
"No," she says. "If you don't mind, I'd rather just have the negative review." Then she posts this on her blog (I pasted it in word for word):
Now, on to another subject. I've had two people on my blog tour line up contact me and tell me that their reviews are less-than-stellar. Both asked me if I preferred to remove them from my tour.
Of course I told them I still want them on my tour!
We can all agree that for the most part, honesty is the best policy. Right? Blog tours are no exception. Here's the way I see it:
1) Like it or not, we all know that not everyone is going to like my book. Of the 40 people I have on my blog tour, if 35 of them like it, I'm thrilled. If all 40 liked it, I would probably think that someone was afraid to tell me what they really thought.
2) My book is NOT PERFECT. I'll be the first to admit this. I see the flaws. Others are going to see the flaws. Some people it's going to bug more than other people. I hope the majority of readers will turn a blind eye, but I am certainly not surprised when there are negative responses.
3) Negative reviews create controversy, and controversy creates interest. At least, I hope so.
Give it to me straight! When I get my first 1-star review, we'll have a consolation party!
IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOU KNOW ALL THIS STUFF SO YOU KNOW THAT I AM NOT THE TYPE OF PERSON THAT GETS MY JOLLIES BY TRASHING OTHER PEOPLE'S BOOKS, STEALING THEIR LUNCHES, OR KICKING THEIR PUPPIES.
Here's the deal. I'm a character driven reader and writer. I love a great character. I'm fairly indifferent about plots. If they kinda make sense, I can live with it if I'm really into the character. Tamara has written some pretty good characters, and I think she shows promise as a writer, but . . .
I could not deal with the plot. Drove me nuts. Hole after hole after hole after leap in logic after hole. That's my beef with it in an nutshell. On her blog, she introduces herself by saying, "The book I started when I was 12, Perilous, is scheduled for release from WiDo Publishing on November 16, 2010." And to be honest, that kind of says it all. The writing is fairly polished, but the plotting . . . well, yeah. It didn't surprise me that the plot was conceived of at about that age. That's exactly what it feels like.
No throwing tomatoes. She said it, not me. I'm just confirming it. Because she insisted on it. The other problem is that this ends in a cliffhanger, which okay, is not my favorite thing but I don't mind as long as there's some kind of resolution for at least some of the major themes/conflicts in the novel before it sets up for the next installment. Here, it's so abrupt that yeah, there's some stuff that's "resolved" but with zero catharsis, ZERO, for the reader or characters and it feels . . . unintentional. Like maybe the author thought they solved stuff and didn't realize that they didn't. It's a major pacing problem. Super major.
That's all I'm going to say and I don't feel happy about having said it, but Tamara, my friend, if you're hoping controversy generates interest, I guess I'm handing you a gift-wrapped present.
To the rest of you, I will say two more things. First, I'm not going to tell you what letter grade I would give this except to say "less than a B." Secondly, take my opinion with a grain of salt. On Goodreads, this book got a 4.64 with 11 reviews and on Amazon it has an average four star rating with five reviews. So either I'm crazy, because I don't see it, or they're all crazy. I'm willing to entertain either notion.
And btw, anyone who has read the book and wants to argue the point, fine. Rule #1, you can't do it anonymously. If I had to stick my neck out, you do, too. Rule #2, in defense of the plot, I will not accept the argument that it was written for 12-year-olds and the plot holes won't bother them. I won't accept that argument for a lot of reasons, most of which I'm way too tired to explain right now, but it all boils down to: that's a weak argument.
So there. I did it. I publicly said I didn't like a book of someone I kind of know. That was not fun. Tamara, I'm sorry, but I really did try to avoid this! Regardless of my opinion, I wish you great success because I definitely think you have talent. I think it just kind of got married too young to the plot of this book, but I have no doubt I'll see great stuff come from you in the future. As I honest as I was in my review, that's as honestly as I mean my assessment of your potential.
Okay, done. That was hard. And in case any of you were wondering, NO, I don't want an honest review of my book unless you LOVED it. My nerves can't take it.
I shall now and forever after return to my policy of not saying anything about a book at all if I can't say something nice.