Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Reading and ARC's

The Sunday Salon.comAh.....Beautiful Sunday!! It's really kind of funny. I've had the last few days off of work, and I've done little to no reading. But I took the time to spend with the kiddies, since school starts tomorrow. And that's what I've done. We've been school shopping (a harrowing day filled with the girlies spending hours trying on "beautiful" clothes!), met up with my Mom & Dad, rented movies, and a few meals out. Overall, it's been pretty nice.

I did post 2 reviews this week. One for The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I thought was fantastic! It was a book I read for a challenge. And the other one for Left to Die by Lisa Jackson. This book was sent to me Pump Up Your Book Promotions - Authors on the Web. And it's this book that has led me to some questions for all of you. About ARC's and books sent to you by the authors themselves.

If you read my review for Left to Die you can see I had a few "issues" with the ending. But I ended up giving the book a 4/5 review. I still think I'm keeping my position that it earned that rating because even though I didn't like a few things about the book, the story was still a first-rate thriller. But for some reason I have been questioning myself about it. Did I rate it higher because it was sent to me for review? If I had checked it out from the library, would I have rated it differently? I really don't think I would have, but the little niggling in my head has prompted this post.

From the beginning of this blog, I have maintained my position that I created it solely for me. Truthfully, I never thought anyone else would read it. But then, slowly I found a niche of wonderful book bloggers that would stop by and comment. I've made some remarkable "friends" across the world with this blog, and for that I am thankful. Then something weird started happening. I'd receive requests to review books. Damn. Free books?? I knew this blog thing was pretty cool, but that was the icing on the proverbial cake!!

I can see why publishers and authors are using the book blogs to spread the word on their books. It's a great untapped resource of readers, and really it's free advertising, aside from a few review copies that are sent. I know there is a ton of discussion right now from "real" book reviewers (ie, paid "professional" reviewers) about how book bloggers are muddying the waters of their livelihood. And I've always taken offense to that. Personally, I think I am pretty honest with my reviews. I don't think I have any bias in them, other than my own opinions. And isn't that basically what a review is? An opinion on a book? If I like it, I say so. If I don't, I say so. And with all the book review requests I get (and frankly, I've been overloaded with requests lately), I try to only accept books that I think I would like. I try to skip a lot of the non-fiction books that I don't think would interest me.

But with the pile of books I've received adding up, I wanted to ask if any of you ever felt the need to be a little more 'admiring' of a book if it was personally sent to you by an author or publisher? I know that I feel a little guilty if I have write something negative, but so far it hasn't stopped me from being honest. At least I don't think it has. (Like I said, I just had a little niggling with the Jackson book). I have been reading Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire series, and I frequent her blog all the time. I've even had some email conversations with her. But I've loved her books, so I haven't felt the guilt there. And PC Cast has commented on the reviews I have written for her books. Again, books I have loved. But I always wonder what an author would think if they read something really negative. I'm sure it happens all the time for them. Not everyone likes the same things. And surely, if I hate it, someone else will love it. That's just the way life is.

So...I'm still sticking by my 4 star review...with it's problems and all. And hope that I can still be honest with my opinions. I guess I just need to be careful of the ARC's I get. Any opinions from you guys??

On that note, I AM reading another book sent to me from Authors on the Web: Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau (yes, the original "Scream Queen" herself) and Michael Scott. Thankfully, I'm loving it right now! I mean Vampires are kind of my weakness, you know!! And I have 3 author sent books to go: Farworld by J. Scott Savage, Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky, and Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall. I also have Sweetsmoke by David Fuller from the First Reviewers group at Librarything, and a couple more from William Morrow that I need to get to....soon. It's a shame I haven't yet figured out how to fore go sleep because, really, there just aren't enough hours in my day!

Happy Reading and Happy Sunday to you all!!


Carl V. said...

I certainly think free books for review can be both a blessing and a curse. For a whim reader like me what often happens, as is the case now, is that I am sent books (and not necessarily always asked first) and if I am not 'in the mood', I don't read them...or rather it takes me a long time to get to them. Some resentment can then build up which can come out it a review and that is not fair either. I think we all are called upon to be fair and honest in our reviews, but part of that honesty means admitting that at least subconsciously we may be easier on a book that was personally sent to us by the author. I know with my 'reviews' I am trying to relate my 'experience' with the book as much as if not more so than giving it an impartial review. Because for me, and I suspect for most readers, the end result of how we feel about a book can be as much a product of when we read it, what was going on in our lives, etc. as it is about the quality of the book itself. A reader can have a 'life changing experience' with a technically inferior book and can also have little or no connection to a book that is really and truly a masterpiece of skill, editing, etc.
In the end, being honest about where we are coming from in reading a book is one of the things we need to strive for.

On another note, I love Adrienne Barbeau in Escape From New York. With that and her role in Swamp Thing she was something of a sci fi geek's hottie during that time period.

Wendy said...

Great post Stephanie! I have also been getting a lot of books for review and although it can get overwhelming at times, I love it. I too think the criticism against book bloggers is unfounded.

Regarding positive and negative reviews...I always give HONEST reviews which I hope are fair. I think the readers of my blog have come to trust me when I say a book is great...and that trust is important to me. I have given lukewarm reviews to some books sent to me by the author...and except for one writer, they have been received well. I always try to find the strengths of the book and present those, and then tell why the book didn't work FOR ME. Because that is the key. A book I didn't like might be a book someone else loves.

Iliana said...

I think a lot of the criticism of book blogs is really unfair too. I mean, we do this because we love it. Yes, we get some free books but we aren't paid and I don't know about you but when it comes to doing the actual book reviews, it does take a bit of time. Even if it's a short review!

I always try to be fair and honest. If I really hate a book I may not even finish it so there's that. If my review is a bit lukewarm well I do try to highlight some of the best passages and after all it's just my POV... We all like different things so my favorite books may be some people just hate.

By the way, I'm reading a vampire novel right now too. It's a good one!

Carrie K. said...

It is much harder for me to write a negative review of a book if it was sent to me by the author personally - but I still do it. Otherwise, how can my readers trust me to give unbiased opinions?

If it was sent to me by the publisher or author's agent or rep, somehow I don't feel as bad. I think it's that personal contact from the author that makes me want to like the book so badly, and makes me feel worse if I don't.

Good post - great questions!

Bobbi said...

Great post! I always try to be as honest as possible when reading review copies. If I don't like something, many times I won't finish it.

I would love to learn how to increase the number of ARC I receive. I've only been blogging a short time and I would love to have more books to review. Any suggestions you can give will be appreciated!

loopyloo100 said...

Great post and your blog looks great too!

Table Talk said...

I've stopped accepting books for review, partly because I knew there was a chance that I wouldn't be totally honest about them, but in my case, more to do with the fact that they were taking up reading time that i want to give to books of my own choosing. Some of the books have been worth reading, but others haven't. Even if I am totally honest about them they've still taken up valuable reading time. I agree there is something very attractive about receiving free books through the post, but ultimately I haven't regretted my decision.

Nymeth said...

I'm glad you had a nice few couple of days, Stephanie!

As for review requests, I get very few, and I've only ever been sent two review books. In both cases, they were books I enjoyed a lot. If they hadn't been, I'm not completely sure what I'd have done...I know for sure that I would never ever publish a dishonest review on my blog. If I had mixed feelings about the book, I'd try to write an honest and balanced review. If I thought the book had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, I'd probably contact the author privately, tell them my opinion, and ask if they wanted me to publish the review anyway.

Chris said...

I do feel a bit guilty about it but I can't lie and say I like something I don't. It's a bit tough but I think authors need to have thick skins. Not everyone is going to like everything.

Framed said...

What an interesting topic. I admit I try harder to like a book when the author sends it to me. Luckily, I've never had to give lower than a 4 on an ARC. But I worry about if I hated it. I still need to review Far World which I loved.

Irish said...

great post! This is an issue I often think about when reading/reviewing a book that was sent to me. I try my best to remain unbiased to to rate the story no differently then if I'd bought it. Hopefully the authors in question won't hold any bad reviews against me!

Becky said...

It's definitely something each blogger most ponder at some point. And some of it does relate to the general philosopher of the blogger on whether negative reviews are part of their site. And having a review policy can help authors and publishers out.

I've got the honesty thing going at my site. I'm honest even when it makes me squirm. And I do squirm more when an author has sent me the book personally hoping for a good review. I feel *awful* when I can't think of even two or three nice things to say. But I try to put it into context, writing thoughtfully and critically about why it didn't work for me. I almost always write a phrase (or two) about how other readers might respond differently. Sometimes authors hate what I have to say. Though I've only heard from one furious author that was rage-filled. Sometimes they respect it.

I tend to look at it this way. If I'm not honest, then I'm not doing any favors for anybody. Whose opinions count more? Whose are more respected? The person that loved each and every book no matter what and never had anything critical or thought-perplexing to say...or the person that was genuine and contemplative. I think reviewers can get a rep one way or the other. And I would imagine most authors would want to risk it (the potential bad review) for the chance of hearing an honest and genuine good review.

Changing subjects a teeny tiny bit, I think authors and publishers would benefit from actually reading the blogs and getting a feel for each bloggers tastes before sending inquiries.

Nothing is more refreshing than hearing from someone that they've read your blog, like your style, and know that you can be a bit harsh and critical at times. When an author lets me know that they know I'm honest and critical and "mean" at times...but they still want my opinion on their book anyway...then I know we're a good match.

Chris said...

I've had this dilemma myself and I've already had the experience of having to write a review for a book that I was less than enthralled by. I was honest without being cruel just saying that the writing style didn't necessarily work for me, but I did mention what I did like about the book. The author didn't contact me, but the publisher commented on my blog saying that I probably just should've stopped reading the book! Oh well...I guess some publishers just expect a shining review, but like Nymeth said, I have to be honest. If I completely dislike a book, I'd most likely just not post on it or see if someone else would like a go at it who may like it better so that it has a better chance at a better review.

Glad you had a good weekend Steph!! You deserve it! How's the flooded room situation coming along?

Ladytink_534 said...

That Vampyres of Hollywood sounds like it might be really good! I'm going to put a hold on it from the library today. Have you seen this interview with Barbeau?

J.S. Peyton said...

Free books for review are definitely a pickle. I once got a book called "All that Glitters" or something like that about the glitterati (models, rich people, and lots of expensive intrigue). Sooooo, not up my alley. I wondered, what in the world on my blog gave them (the publisher) the idea that I'd be interested in reading anything like this?

Two chapters into the book, and I knew I hated it. So, what to do? Read it and write about how much I hate it? Or not read it? And, if I don't read it, is it rude not to read a book that's been given to you for free?

I still haven't read it. I don't think I will either. My reading life is too short, and well I know if I did read it, I probably wouldn't have anything nice to say. In cases like these, I think it's best to follow my mother's advice: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all...

Literary Feline said...

I admit that I do worry sometimes about the possibility that I won't like a book that I am asked to review. I do like to be honest, but there's also the people pleaser side of me that I've suffered from all my life. I try and balance that as best I can--I am honest while being nice about it! :-)

Like you, I accept/request books for review that I think I will like. I don't want to waste my time reading something I have little to no interest in. I read for pleasure, after all. It's not something I get paid to do.

I hope you have a great week!

Trish said...

I haven't had as many requests and therefore not as much experience, but I know what you are talking about. It seems as though because there is more of a human connection with the author every little word that goes into a review gets second guessed (by me anyway). But, you are absolutely right that not everyone is going to like the same things and that is an important thing to keep in mind. And publishers and authors should realize this when they send out the books in the first place. It's been interesting to watch the trend on the book blogosphere of people moving more towards the ARCs. I like them, and I'm flattered with an author in particular contacts me for a review, but I also miss some of the reviews of older books that came up more frequently in the past.