When I started this blog I promised myself I would review every book I read because my primary purpose for doing this was to help me remember the books I read. No review, no memory (yes it is that bad).
For the first year I kept my promise and dutifully reviewed every book, good or bad. I know many people don’t review books they don’t like but I thought it would help me to become better at selecting books I’m more likely to like (which it did). I also think that negative reviews (if they are constructive and not mean for the sake of it) provide help to other readers. I know myself that a well-placed negative review would have saved me a bit of money and reading time over the years.
Over the past year or so though I’ve become a little more selective about what I review. I still review most books I read (more than 90% of them) but there are a few that I’ve elected not to review. They fall into two categories
Category One: Middle-ground books that are neither very good nor very bad about which I can’t summon the energy to say anything much at all. A couple of recent books which fall into this category are
- Alafair Burke’s Dead Connection which I listened to in audio format. It’s the first book in Burke’s Ellie Hatcher series, featuring a New York rookie Detective on the trail of a serial killer (of sorts). I simply cannot think of anything (not setting, characters or story) that distinguished this book from any other American police procedural featuring a serial killer (of which I have read more than a few).
- Shelia Connolly’s Rotten to the Core is the second of a cosy mystery series featuring a Massachusetts apple grower as its heroine and while very cosy is not very mysterious at all. There is the discovery of a dead body followed by 200 pages of our plucky heroine learning how to live in her new home (driving a tractor, acquiring goats, spraying her apple trees, polishing her floors etc) and a quick last few pages revealing the glaringly obvious killer.
Category Two: Books I was sent specifically for review by the author or publisher, which I have struggled through and about which I can find nothing positive to say. These are usually by lesser known authors and because of that I would feel guilty if I wrote what I really wanted to say. So I have applied the ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing’ advice my father gave me all those years ago. It would defeat the purpose if I gave any examples of this category.
In a way I do worry about this category of non-reviews. Every time I see someone who can’t sing on one of those TV talent shows I wonder how it got to that point, how it is that no one ever told them they can’t sing? So shouldn’t I take the opportunity to have my say about books that aren’t up to scratch? The sad reality is that wanting to be something and working hard at it isn’t always enough. Not everyone can be a writer and if their families won’t tell them shouldn’t someone more objective do so? Probably, but my heart’s not in it.
Of course the problem with this category is finding a way to tell someone why their book won’t be reviewed here. I’m currently using the cowardly strategy of hoping they forget they’ve sent it to me and don’t come asking. If you can think of something a little braver do let me know. For the moment I’ve simply stopped accepting review copies all together. It’s not like I don’t have a gazillion books on my TBR shelves anyway, and I can do without the guilt.
Do you review everything you read? Do you have any categories that you don’t review? Do you have a nice way of saying “your book was bad” to hopeful new authors?