Looking through the Kindle $3.99 or less offerings for November got me thinking about book reviews, as well as my own writing. Yes, I realize that “thinking” about writing and the act of writing are not the same thing, but there is some benefit to thinking: I consciously decide what I want from my writing.
First of all, I’ve learned to not put much stock in book reviews because I know that some authors ask certain readers to only post favorable reviews. When I buy something, I want to know the good, the bad and the broken – not just how shiny the good stuff is. I wonder if publishers put the authors up to it, or it the authors just want their ratings to soar to make them look good. I may never know.
I found a memoir that intrigued me. Interesting, since I’m not a fan of memoirs. This book happened to have several two and three star reviews, so I read them and found the same issues noted over and over. Poor editing, purple prose, good story but bad writing, etc. One review (which happened to be a four star review) gave two sample descriptions from the book. My eyes rolled, so I decided I’d better look closer.
By the end of page one, I knew I couldn’t handle the purple prose. (I like purple, but not when reading.) I found the flowery details used to describe a person’s real experience distracting. Descriptions are like salt: a sprinkling adds flavor. Here are a few examples from the first couple paragraphs:
“Midmorning heat rippled with fury.”
“Sprinklers scattered wet jewels…”
“…tearing up a dust storm in its steely wake.”
There’s another thing about salt: some people have a higher tolerance for it. While I found the above examples to be too strong, someone else may think they are perfect. At any rate, I will be more conscientious as to how I season my own writing.
What makes you pass on reading a book? What makes you decide to give it a try? Do you read online reviews?