Im in the midst of one of those weeks which are so bad you pray for sleep if only to go to a world that doesn’t have this one in it. Oddly, while I’ve had nightmares galore I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream wherein I’ve had arthritis pain. Sorry. Off topic. The topic today is “books”.
Specifically, how we integrate commercial books into our lives in the post-newspaper age. Say wha? That sounds a bit heavy and college-lecturey for this blog. What is she talking about? Well, me is just talking about how it is now almost impossible to find a book you want to buy using the process of book reviews. I’ve spoken on this before, because I was stunned to hear the book reviewer for the Scene say, almost 5 years ago, that it was considered bad form to give bad reviews to books because the book market was in so much trouble.
So clearly those reviewers–the ones in newspapers–were through with being customer advocates and had started to be publisher/writer advocates.
The new day was supposed to come with the customer reviews at Amazon.com, B&N.com and other wilds of the Internet. You were supposed to be able to look up a book and see what Real People thought of it. In that way you could know if the book was worth your cash and, more importantly, your time. Good idea–until Harriet Klausner. Amazon ranked their reviewers and she was #1, all for reviews that gave every book a top or near-top ranking and a modified jacket blurb. She started to get attention, with writeups in papers and magazines, and characters named for her in novels. The Everyman Reader became an ersatz celebrity and all the honesty in Amazon reviews was out the window. The first review for the book I’m panning went on and on about how the reviewer in question loved to write reviews for this author and her last review of the author’s last book actually got featured on the cover of this book! Look for it! Her name is Fannie McSlavering and she LOVES….etc. Totally unbiased review to follow, of course…
Why am I going into all this right now? Because I spent $9.99 on a book for my Kindle that had bundles of 4- and 5-star reviews but turned out to be the most excruciating waste of my time I’ve ever experienced. Since I’ve read it I don’t feel I can ask for my money back, and since it’s electronic I don’t feel I can get the visceral thrill of letting someone else read my copy and thereby not further line the pockets of the author and publisher. And I want to tell everyone what the book is and why I didn’t like it. But having read numerous websites for numerous authors I’m now more than ever aware of how much they (authors) track what is said about them. As someone who is writing a book she knows is good enough to be published if it is ever finished, I’m also conscious of not wanting to slam a possible co-worker of sorts. I’m guilty of the very thing I’m complaining about.
I’ve got a few options in mind. I could start an anonymous book-review blog, where honest readers could submit honest thoughts under cover. I could just tell the truth on this blog. Or I could just anonymously review things on Amazon. Stay tuned…
The book in question is by an author whose name is Ellyn Hill Dur Brand (but spelled differently.) The book’s title is Those Who Were Cast Away (kind of.) And the book was an excruciating exercise of 8 selfish people acting selfishly for tons of pages until the “mystery” end which felt thrown together and vomited back up during a brief pause in the selfishness. Stay away.