Reviewing Bad Books

An author once told me that writing reviews for books was fine, as long as they were five stars in support of the work; I turned around and reviewed a 99¢ erotic short story of hers as 4 stars. It makes sense for an author not to criticize books and other authors, but as a reader, not being honest feels truly fraudulent. I know I still have a lot to learn.

That being said, I feel as though I can't review all books read this year equally as I had originally planned. Short stories are one problem, but many book bloggers suggest delving into author insight and synopsis as means to fill out a sparse review. But what is a reviewer to do when they read a bad book? I means when one is not in the mood for a bashing, of course.

Emlyn Chand, president of Novel Publicity, says that when unable to write a positive review, when unable to renege on the review, you must maintain balance. You can opt for an interview of the author, or a synopsis, or merely focus on the good points of the book. You can read the entire blog post on Novel Publicity: 10 ways to write a book review and what to do if the book sucks.

Not too long ago, I downloaded and listened to a free audiobook which was a holiday promotion item. If you have been around long enough, you probably know that free is often all they could get for this type of thing.

Escape Velocity - Anah Crow & Dianne Fox

On Writing - Stephen King


The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

“I’m on a side of a road somewhere, stuck in the middle of a very deep hole, with no way of getting out. Never mind how I got in there, it’s not relevant to the story. I’ll invent a back-story… I was walking to get pizza and a chasm opened up in the earth and I fell in, and now I’m at the bottom of this hole, screaming for help. And along comes you. Now, maybe you just keep walking. You know, there’s a strange guy screaming from the center of the Earth. It’s perhaps best to just ignore him. But let’s say that you don’t. Let’s say that you stop. The sensible thing to do in this situation is to call down to me and say “I’m going to look for a ladder. I will be right back.” But you don’t do that. Instead you sit down at the edge of this abyss, and then you push yourself forward, and jump. And when you land at the bottom of the hole and dust yourself off, I’m like “What the hell are you doing?! Now there are two of us in this hole!” And you look at me and say, “Well yeah, but now I’m highly motivated to get you out.” This is what I love about novels, both reading them and writing them. They jump into the abyss to be with you where you are”
-- John Green, An Evening of Awesome

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


Review: Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot plays the funny foreigner, impishly innocuous traveling back from Syria where he has solved a case vaguely described as very shocking and somewhat melodramatic. He's not at all perturbed when he over hears a conversation during their late-night stop in Konya, revealing more about his reserved English traveling companions.
"Mary--"
The girl interrupted him.
"Not now. Not now. When it's all over. When it's behind us--then--"
The young woman travelling with him, an English governess, displays suspicious behavior that Poirot immediately picks up on, and this is why I, as a reader, fixated on her for the rest of the novel. Her behavior alone tips me off that something is going on. While I liked her immediately for the murder, and stuck by my suspicion of her for almost the entire book, anyone who is familiar with the famous little detective mystery knows my mistake, and I won't re-hash it here.

What I enjoyed so immensely about this short book is Agatha Christie's sense of humor. Her character of Hercule Poirot is intended to better satire the contrast between Continental Europeans and the average English mind. His unique ways and strange appearance seems to be on everyone's mind when they see him, and his amusement at English behavior works so effectively because he is an outsider. I don't believe Agatha Christie was regarded as a humorist, but it is her charm and the concise writing of this novel that kept me enthralled.
"I say, sir," said the young man quite suddenly. "If you'd rather have the lower berth--easier and all that--well, it's all right by me."
A likeable [sic] young fellow.
"No, no," protested Poirot. "I would not deprive you--"
"That's all right--"
"You are too amiable--"
Polite protests on both sides.
While description is curtailed to the stations, hotels and the Stamboul-Calais coach, and a seemingly disparate group of travelers, Christie succinctly builds a surprisingly lively book. If all her books are this enjoyable, I look forward to reading them. Writing less does work.

198 pp. Pocket Book. Sept, 1975. Paper.
SBN: 671-80018-3