Friday, July 9, 2010

Clearing the Air: In which I defend this blog...

I've been fortunate to never get any "hate mail" per see, but I did recently have 2 accusations leveled against me (and one "accusation" that was conveniently expressed in a post but not to me directly), and this is my attempt to clear the air. So far, I'm sure it's very obvious that I review books. I do not endorse books. I am not a publicity person, I am not in advertising...I review books. And I am always, always honest. Counting here and goodreads, I have reviewed over 100 books in the last year. Out of those 100, there have been only 3 that have been majority-negative. Only 3. The accusation that I never like a book is ludicrous and untrue. It's so much easier to speak in extremes, to say "well she always writes 5 star reviews" or "she hates every book she reads" or even "she hates the author." Well, that is conveniently one-sided. Of those 3 books that I wrote highly negative reviews for, I feel like I had every reason to do so. You may not think it, but I am objective (to a certain extent). The 3 books in question were so outrageous and personally offensive to me that I was totally lost for anything constructive. Have you ever been in that position? Maybe not, but I have, and I don't really like writing negative reviews. But these 3 were so outrageous and really hit me on a personal level, I felt I had to. How wonderful it must be to always find something good. But that's not always the case.
Now, I have written reviews that contain criticism or somewhat negative tones, but most of them are a mix of positive and negative. The last "critical" book I reviewed was Forgive My Fins, which I still gave an overall 'B' rating to, and the first part of which I praised the author and mentioned the things I liked about the book. I did NOT 'hate' it, and to insinuate that I did totally misses the point. On the other side of the scale, even my 5-star reviews are never without something. If I just wrote a drool-worthy review of say The Dark Divine, I wouldn't sound very objective, would I? And who exactly would I help? It may sound weird, but I actually appreciate 1-and-2-star reviews. Some of my goodreads/blogger pals are very outspoken in their opinions, and I appreciate that fully. I want to know why someone doesn't like a book, because in all likeliness, I will probably agree. I guess this is my way of "returning the favor."

And now to the most unpopular part of my "diatribe," concerning authors and what I have said about them: When an author publishes a book, he/she is pretty much saying, "This is as good as I can make it. This is ready to go out and be evaluated by others. I have done all I can." When I read a book, I'm reading a finished product. And yes, this may sound outrageous, but I do expect the finished product to read like a novel, not like a draft. So here's my answer to the accusation made that I personally attack authors: no, I don't. I have said things that are somewhat critical. There have only been 2 times, however, where I have come close to "attacking" an author on a personal level. Both of those cases involved content issues. This may be a really radical idea, but if you're an author and you choose to put content in your books that you know will offend others, you do open yourself up to criticism, sometimes very severe criticism. If that's okay with you, fine! Any person who is creative or in the arts has to have thick skin. But it is a little on the immature side to write things that you know will divide readers and then turn around and complain about negative comments. That's unreal. Now, the accusation made in this circumstance was entirely blown out of proportion. Saying a person seems like "blah blah blah" is not the same as saying they definitely are blah blah blah. And to accuse me of "hating" them is just immature, because pretty much what that says is "If you make any kind of negative comment whatsoever, it's the same thing as 'hating.'" No, it's not. The funny thing is, the comment(s) in question was not made on any of my reviews - it was the kind of thing you have to go looking for to find. And what's even funnier is that I didn't totally 'hate' that book, as I was so conveniently accused of doing. It actually got 3 stars from me. I'm not mean-spirited, and I try to think before I type. I don't set out to hurt anyone's feelings, but I seriously doubt that my 2-and-3 star goodreads reviews are read by the actual authors. By most of their own admissions, they only stick to 5-and-4 star reviews. I don't try to hurt anyone's feelings, but if you're an author, this is your job. If someone calls you unoriginal or says that you sound a certain way, that's not personal. Let's all TiVo The Godfather and replay that scene: "It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business." But I'm getting off track.
It was heavily annoying to be called out like that, and not even by the author in question, but by other readers, especially when the accusations made against me were not even true, and they reflected the accuser's inability to comprehend anything but "either-or" scenarios. That may sound mean to some of you, but good gracious! It's true. Don't go throwing accusations around unless you're willing to back them up. But really it all boils down to me saying something that got taken out of context and that upset certain people. I stand by what I said, and I encourage the person who made the accusation to go read that comment again and see precisely how I worded it, since s/he seems so comfortable vocalizing their displeasure.

I seriously thought last night about changing Imagination in Focus to only feature positive-reviews. That seems to be the trend, right? But I'm not going to do that, because like I said, most of the time (except for 3 very specific occasions) I do make my reviews as objective as I can. To only feature 5-star reviews would be to warp reality. And you know, I like reading the honest, "I didn't care for it" reviews. I'm not in this to be friends with publishers. I'm not even in this to be popular. I'm in this to be honest, to review books and share information and recommendations. And most of the time, I have a blast doing it. Truly, I look forward to checking updates, reading comments, and making comments, because this is a wonderful community. And thank you to all the friends I've made. Your comments mean so much to me, and I read every single one of them. Thank you for your friendship
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