Negative Reviews

November 14, 2008 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments

I did a quick Google search on the phrase ‘negative reviews’ and all sorts of interesting things came up.  Here are three sites founded entirely on the principle of giving the most scathing reviews possible:


Here are two posts about a blogger who was sued for giving a negative review.  One of the comments to the first post says that the author eventually dropped the suit.  The second post includes a section of the suit itself, which I found quite compelling reading.


Then, just for fun, I checked for the one-star reviews I was certain I’d find on a few arbitrarily chosen books I considered superlatively excellent, compulsively engaging reads.  I was right, of course, and I’m sure I could find a horrible review for every single excellent book I can name.


Pride and Prejudice:

This is one of those books I pushed myself to get halfway through, thinking it would get interesting, only to force myself to finish it since I already read half of it. While there may be no accounting for taste or I’m just missing something, I’m not sure how anyone can enjoy reading this.

War and Peace:

This book is horribly boring. While other lengthy works, like Les Miserables, excite and build intrigue, War and Peace does nothing of the sort. It ambles on, like a wounded victim hoping to be put out of its misery. After a thousand pages, that is exactly what I did. I threw the book clear across the room in disgust with what was a lethargic, uninteresting, and needlessly convoluted tale.

Great Expectations:

I started reading this over a month ago and I’m still not finished. I can’t get into it at all! It’s like a really boring nightmare!

The Road (2007 Pulitzer Prize winner):

I just started reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy and if I didn’t know better I would say that it was written by a 10th grader who has done too much glue.

This last one seems to be making a personal attack on Cormac McCarthy (a living author) by insinuating he has a major drug problem.  Now, James Ellroy actually admitted, in My Dark Places, that he used to sniff glue, so to level that sort of cricitism at him would have some basis.  (Except that that book is absolutely magnificent and if you don’t like it, well, you’re just wrong).


The funny thing about Amazon reviews, as I’ve probably mentioned somewhere before, is that some of the best books attract some of the worst reviews, while it’s common to find genre fiction with very high averages.  I think the reason for this is that the genre fiction attracts fans who go looking for their favorite type of read, and enjoy it for meeting their expectations.  Meanwhile, the really great books attract a wider variety of readers due to their imposing reputations, ensuring that more people who don’t care for that particular literary style will fail to be enthralled.  You can see what I mean by observing that Weep No More, My Lady has zero one-star reviews and an average of 4.5 stars, while The Great Gatsby has 77 one-star reviews and an average of only 4 stars.  Does that mean Mary Higgins Clark is a better writer than F. Scott Fitzgerald?  Objectively?


Somebody once said that the only bad publicity is no publicity.  If that person is still among the living, he’s probably noticed that famous people like Jay Leno, John McCain, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Paris Hilton, and Tom Cruise are constantly, constantly mocked and ridiculed all over the media.  In fact, it’s nearly a truism that the more you’re criticized, the better known you’ll be.  It’s the same with books.  There’s a reviewer I like, and I’ve reliably found that the less she enjoyed a book, the more I tend to like it.  So a negative review from her is a positive review to me.


I’m working on a novel myself.  If I ever finish the thing, which is unlikely, and put it out there to publishers, which is even less likely, I know to brace myself for criticism I won’t want to hear.  (I’ve already gotten my man Rocket Scientist to promise to open the rejection letters and preview them for me).  If it happens, I’ll remember two things from my childhood.  1. “Don’t let them get your goat.” 2. “I’m rubber, you’re glue/Whatever you say/Bounces off me and sticks to you.”

Garth Stein

November 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Book Blather, Fiction | 3 Comments

Guess what?  This week I got to meet Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain!  He came to our town to do a book signing.  It’s funny, for some reason I had waited to review this book, so now that I’ve met the man who wrote it I can take that opportunity.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from a dog’s perspective.  Instantly, I thought I would hate it.  But I also thought my mom might like it, so I’d read it to see if it would make a good Christmas gift.  Instead, I found myself falling in love with the story and with Stein’s writing.  His grammar and diction are so perfect that the canine character comes across with an innate dignity that isn’t quite as apparent in the video book trailer.  I am not a Hallmark channel kind of gal, so I kept trying to be skeptical about this story and getting sucked in in spite of myself.  I kept wishing my mom was reading it so I could call her and rant about the actions of some of the characters.

So when Trish told me she’d met Garth Stein at the book expo recently, I was jealous.  I could hardly believe it when she said he was in town.  In person he’s very friendly and charismatic, and, dare I say it of a married man, kinda dishy.  He showed us pictures of his sweet little kids.  Because it was a signing, not a reading, we had him all to ourselves for probably fifteen minutes!  I found myself  telling him about my parrot who died last winter, and we laughed a little about how many people have told him all about their pets dying.  Luckily I’m only half stupid, so I was able to stop talking about myself and ask whether he’s working on another book.  He said he’s been playing around with an idea, but it hasn’t fully crystalized yet.

Garth Stein and The Art of Racing in the Rain: both definitely worth all the fuss.

On Being in a Major Snit

November 14, 2008 at 2:25 am | Posted in Book Blather, Rude Poetry | 9 Comments

Recently I wrote a nasty blog post about a talentless author whose writing is so bad that I’d rather watch grass grow than read one of his books.  Yes, I’m talking about you, Dan Brown.  And how did Dan Brown react when he saw that I’d blasphemed against his holy name by putting up his book cover with a giant X through it?  How did he react when he saw that I’d posted a rude poem with his name?  Why, I’ll tell you.

He didn’t post a comment on my blog.

He didn’t e-mail anyone about it.

He didn’t demand an apology.

He didn’t go on and on about how I’d misappropriated his material.

All I heard was… crickets.  And why?  Because, for one thing, I doubt my mean-spirited little blog post ever came to his attention.  Why should it?  I’m a peon.  I’m a little secretary with a state college degree, a five figure negative net worth, and a rental house in a small city.  I’m not even all that good looking.  Why the heck should anyone care what I say on my little book blog, with an average daily readership of 15, most of whom probably would never read his books under any circumstances anyway?

The other reason Dan Brown doesn’t have a tear in his beer over my post is that a mature, emotionally well adjusted adult knows to blow off this kind of thing.  If I said anything that hurt his feelings, he could just go to his swimming pool full of hundred-dollar bills and do the Australian crawl for a couple hours until he felt better.  He could just write another book casting a thinly-disguised me as the villain.  That’s right – a villain who cares about nothing but books and has become so cold from her obsessive reading habit that she’s no longer capable of human emotion.

Here’s the other thing.  If you do a Google search on the name “Dan Brown” or the title “The Da Vinci Code,” no way on earth is my blog going to come up in the first, say, two million hits.  That’s because there’s so much traffic involving those names.  Now, if he happened to be a lesser-known author with a newer book – hypothetically speaking, of course – he’d probably wish that I had avoided using his name or the title of his book anywhere on my entire blog.  Was that too subtle?  Let me spell it out again.  When you don’t use someone’s name, it means nobody will find the blog post when they do a Google search about that person.  So it’s probably a kindness if you find that someone hasn’t approved any of your comments to her blog, if doing so would have meant that all of a sudden that terrible, horrible, no good, rotten blog post started appearing in your Google hits.  Know what I mean?

And now, a gratuitous rude poem – by request – about Nicholas Sparks.

Nicholas Sparks

I’m in the darks

Why do your books get high marks?

My dog could do better

And he just barks.

Watch this space for another rotten, rude post – by request – about Gladiator and how much that sucked.

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