Wednesday, December 08, 2010

GETTING IT WRONG


Most of the books I read I get on recommendation from other bloggers, and these I almost always enjoy. The Friend Feed Crime and Mystery Forum know their onions.
But sometimes I ask for books from Karen at Euro Crime based not on her recommendation, but on my interpretation of the publishers blurb, and it is here that occasionally I run into trouble. So I was very interested to see on Monday Dorte at DJS Krimiblog posting about books she did not finish, and asking what made you give up on a book.
This subject was expanded on by Rob at The View from the Blue House yesterday with an excellent ten point list of failings that led to a DNF.

I am a bit stubborn in that if I have started a book I almost always finish it, especially if it is one of those received from Karen at Euro Crime. I have felt obligated to finish and review every book, although this has caused problems for poor Karen in the past. I have felt guilty about this as the problems have been entirely my fault.
She has wisely decided not to publish one negative review [book A]; and I decided not to review another book [book B] as in my opinion it qualified on at least four of Rob's ten points for a DNF.
I had struggled through to the end of book B as I thought it had to improve at some point, but I was gravely disappointed.
Book B was a perfect example of two of Rob's points:
'A writing style that is all style and no substance-nice prose is good, great story is better' and 'Too much sermonising and/or pretentiousness'.

I shall be most interested in other reviews of Book A [the paperback is out shortly] because it was a case of an author, who I had previously read and enjoyed, really disappointing me with a story that totally lacked credibility.
I very nearly chucked book A in the bin when after two hundred pages the leading character decided to whiz down to his local Gestapo HQ to discuss his girl friend's membership of an anti-Nazi resistance group; and then try to make a deal with those brutes. I would suggest that by 1942 most people in Nazi Germany had worked out that whoever you were you stayed as far away as possible from the Gestapo, and SS, based on events such as the Night of the Long Knives [June 1934] when the Nazis slaughtered large numbers of their 'friends', including Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor General von Schleicher, his wife, and Gregor Strasser, father of Hitler's godchildren.
There were other glaring examples of what Rob mentions as 'Lack of credibility and realism in what purports to be realistic fiction.' Perhaps more of those another time.

In future I won't be wasting time with books that don't grab me and are too much like hard work. There may be a few more DNFs or WNRs [will not reviews].

9 Comments:

Blogger Margot Kinberg said...

Norman - It's really a reader's right not to finish a book, or not to like a book. I think a lot of people feel obliged to finish a book they dislike, but the fact is, there is no real compulsion to do so. In my opinion, I would rather know that a book reviewer is being honest about a book than assume a book is good because of review, only to find out the book wasn't to my liking at all.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Margot-I agree, but I would not want to put Karen in the firing line again. She has emailed me a link to a review that makes anything I have written look quite bland.
I may put that review up in a few weeks.
I am one of those people who know absolutely nothing about so many subjects that when an author wanders on to my territory, those few subjects I know something about, I am like a tiger if they get something out of kilter. ;o)

8:48 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

When I began getting ARCs I felt obliged to read and review them, and I wrote one or two overly kind reviews because I got the book from the writer. I won´t do that again so the last time a writer sent me a book I didn´t like I sent him an email where I explained why but did not mention it on my blog.

I have thought about my practise a lot, also because I write stories myself, and one day it may be my novel that is reviewed by bloggers. I really hope I will still prefer honest reviews, because our blogs are just not useful if we don´t try to make it clear what we like and what we don´t.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Dorte you are right. I did write one negative review and the author took it in good humour, and put me in her next book which was a much more interesting story with fascinating characters. That one got nominated for a prize, and not just because I was in it. ;o)

11:13 AM  
Blogger Bernadette in Australia said...

I think I will say no to review copies from now on, these days I really can afford to buy what I want to read and there is always the library. I have had 3 ARCs this year that were terrible - I mean utter, unmitigated rubbish - and I did not finish any of them. I thought I was doing a favour - because I say that if I finish a book received for review purposes then I will publish a review of it - but one author and publisher in particular have not taken my lack of review very well (I explained the reasons as politely as I could in an email) and have bombarded me with emails about why I should think differently about the book.

On the issue of finishing in general I am philosophical. These days like you I don't often get it wrong because I mostly listen to the good people of Friend Feed or otherwise am pretty good at self-selecting. But sometimes I still get swayed by award winners (which I have a hit or miss relationship with) and the occasional book that I've gotten from bookmooch on the grounds that the blurb sounded good (as if I don't know how inaccurate blurbs can be) and when these turn out not to be my cup of tea I simply throw in the towel on the basis that the time I spend with the rotten book could be much better spent finding a good one.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I usually don't read unrequested ARCs there are so many books I actively want to read. I don't want to be committed to read an ARC unless it is recommended by someone I know, or I have asked the author or publishers. Then you have to read it, and if you produce a negative review they can cut you off their reviewers list.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

That would really aggravate me in a book--trusting the local Gestapo to be understanding about a deal to protect an anti-Nazi activist. (Might as well be signing the warrant for her arrest.)

If anyone didn't get it after the Night of the Long Knives, they certainly should have gotten it by Nov. 9-10, 1938--the horror known as Kristallnacht, the details of which I won't describe; it should have alerted the world as to what was truly happening in Germany.

I certainly would not finish a book with that attitude--in fact, I don't read about WWII. It would defeat my goal of escapism and virtual vacations through fiction.

No one is obligated to finish or like a book. Reading is for personal enjoyment. Everyone has their own taste subjectively, but objectively, some books are just badly written or badly edited.

There are so many good books out there now and available, including translated crime fiction, why waste one's time (and ruin one's enjoyment) on a book that one dislikes? No point to that.

One thing that I really enjoy in the mystery readers' blogosphere, is the honesty of reviews. I can figure out if I want to try to read a book or not, or if I want to buy one not available at the library or just forget it.

I may disaagree with a review, either liking a book someone else disliked or the reverse. But I do appreciate these reviews, and gaining the insights they present.

If the reviews are incisive and frank, which most are, one can figure out whether to try books or not.

True, there is personal taste and that is always in play, even in terms of the type of books reviewed.

The suggested rule is to give a book 50 pages; if one doesn't like it, forget it. I've handed back books to the library after 10 pages, being fed up with the insipidness of the writing and topic. Fine; there are always readers who like this.

Anyway, my motto is "Too many good books, not enough time," so make the best of it.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Kathy, I am pleased you agree with me that this plot line was complete nonsense. We share certain standards like sanity.
From memory there were two other quite ridiculous passages that I mentioned in the review, and I will probably post about these when the paperback review is up.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, I agree. To not treat WWII and the Holocaust seriously, and realize that anti-Nazi activists were in mortal danger every minute means that the writer either didn't know the real history or was making light of what the Gestapo did--both of which are inexcusable (and maddening).

2:53 AM  

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