Being critical

I’ve done nice, in a Thumper-ish kind of way. If I don’t like a book, I will stop reading. If I can’t, I probably won’t review it. Though, having lost time reading something I didn’t care for, it’s possible to salvage something by blogging about it in a more general way.

In a week that began with Anthony McGowan’s much discussed negative review in the Guardian, and continued with Julie Bertagna’s blog, I have come to the conclusion that it might be time for a policy change. Not to slag off books, but to blog about them, warts and all. I have some way to go before I can do what Anthony did, because he got it just right (not having read the book in question I don’t know if I share his opinions), which requires skill.

What’s the verdict of my review of Advent yesterday? It’s a book I liked for the most part, and in the past I would have concentrated on that, while leaving a bit of a hole in the middle. I now feel that when I’ve invested the time, I shouldn’t do half a review. (Or should I?)

I remember the book by GPT some years ago, which I had to finish because I was leading a group discussion afterwards, only to find that not a single child in the group had bothered, so I needn’t have either. If only I could have that week back!

More recently I was grabbed by the description of a novel by a new author, except the story ended up going nowhere. By then I felt I might as well finish the book, and that’s when it turned out it was the first in a trilogy. So no review. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong? Maybe I should have shared my thoughts?

I tested this idea on the Resident IT Consultant yesterday. In no uncertain terms he pointed out that my review of Advent was negative. At least for me.

So where do I go?

2 responses to “Being critical

  1. I enjoyed your review of Advent. It was a little ambiguous in the sense that it seemed to threaten to dislike the book but then actually didn’t with any great vehemence.

    Its effect on me was, well, ambiguous – I won’t go out and buy it, but I’ll pick it up if I see it.

    It’s a big responsibility I guess, if you have a Bookwitch-sized following. Maybe you ask not ‘Do I like it?’ but ‘Could plenty of people like it even though I don’t particularly?’

    I guess, too, it depends why you dislike a book – if there are major discernible flaws, inaccuracies, pieces missing, thin characters etc etc, then it needs a good kicking. If the faults are more to do with style, genre nichette, voice or POV, well maybe those things are more like personal bugbears.

    That’s enough from me.


  2. I think constructive criticism is fine and a review like this is one an author would learn from if they had any sense. Sometimes, you just don’t like a book, what can you do? But if there are flaws in the story, as Peter said, they deserve to be pointed out. Serious readers don’t buy books they build collections – I think we want honesty from fellow collectors before we invest.

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