|A SOUND AMONG THE TREES by Susan Meissner–my new favorite book!|
Have you ever written a book off your to-be-read list due to bad reviews?
I did. I read a particularly harsh review of Susan Meissner’s A Sound Among the Trees, which seemed to indicate that a house was haunted, there was a seance used to solve a ghost problem, etc. I’m pretty stinking particular about ghosts and whatnot, and I didn’t want to read Christian fiction that totally veered from my views. I understand it when NON-Christian fiction veers, but when Christians misinterpret the Bible, then I have a problem. Even if I disagree, I might continue reading it, then hash out the issues with my hubby (The Shack springs to mind–love it or hate it, it does raise interesting questions).
Well, my dear friend, Becky Doughty, read A Sound Among the Trees, and told me it was nothing like what the review said. In fact, it was similar to a book or two that I HAVE WRITTEN. I agreed to give it a whirl (this is where word of mouth from a FRIEND trumps the star ratings on Amazon or Goodreads).
AND. I loved it. It’s my new favorite.
But when I went to give it a well-deserved five-star review on Amazon and Goodreads, I was appalled. Turns out, many Christian readers panned it, based on their impressions of the first chapter OR possibly skewed reviews of others.
It was obvious they had not read the entire book. And yet they proceeded to review the book as if they had. (Click to Tweet!)
It’s understandable if people put the book down, decide it’s not for them, and don’t leave a review. But to leave a bad review, dragging the book through the mud, preventing others from picking it up, when you can’t be bothered to read past the first couple chapters…that’s just not right.
And this is in Christian book circles, my friends.
Book reviews are a tricky business, especially in the CBA (Christian Book Association). We all know each other, for the most part, and we want to support each other. But sometimes, our friends’ writing style/topic/genre isn’t our favorite. What then? What if we’ve agreed to be an influencer, but we realize we don’t really love their books? Do we give glowing reviews, pulling out the high points, while realizing we were bored to death as we trudged through the novel? (Click to Tweet!)
There are no pat answers here. I personally focus on the high points of books I’ve agreed to be an influencer for. There’s usually some element of the author’s writing that I totally support, such as genre, setting, etc. However, I only give five stars to books I’d read again. I don’t usually give detailed reviews (I am a walking spoiler alert! I can’t talk plot without giving away the entire book!), I just hit the things I like.
And yet, I respect and refer to people who consistently give honest reviews. If someone constantly reviews books with no negatives, I know it’s a gloss-over deal where they’re just promoting everyone and trying to get on everybody’s good side. And shoot, authors need that, too, don’t we? Someone who can give glowing praise about almost any book?
But when I’m thinking of buying a book, I go to reviewers and friends who will tell me straight. People who like the same kind of stuff I do, or at least know me enough to tell me I’ll probably love or hate something.
I rarely plop down money for a book, but if I’m going to, I need to have a good idea I’ll love it. For instance, many friends recommended Bonnie Grove’s Talking to the Dead. I was hesitant at first–ghosts again–but I did buy it on Amazon and it was worth the money. I love her writing style. I loved the subject and the way she approached it. Basically–another new fave.
I guess the only way to counteract half-honest reviews is to read the entire book in question, and leave honest reviews. I actually went back to those dishonest reviews by people who hadn’t bothered to read A Sound Among the Trees and commented.
Of course, we all have different tastes and genres we prefer. But I think we’d all agree that people who misrepresent books they haven’t read by leaving dishonest reviews must be extremely disheartening for authors. Let’s make every effort to leave honest reviews and build up those authors we love. And in that spirit, here’s the link to my two new favorite novels, if you want to check them out and order them!
A Sound Among the Trees on Amazon
Talking to the Dead on Amazon
****Now it’s your turn. Have you ever read and loved a book, only to be dismayed by half-honest bad reviews on Amazon? Or have you been astonished by overly good reviews on a poorly written/poorly plotted book? How do you approach reviewing your friends’ books? And, as an author, what kind of reviewers do you want?****