A while back I got an unsolicited email from an author who asked if I would be interested in reviewing their new book. (I realize this is bad grammar, but I cannot reveal the gender of my solicitor). Being green, naive, open, or overly-willing (you choose), and having been asked to review a book only once before, I quickly agreed. Why not? A chance to read a book for free, and support another writer in the endeavour towards publishing success.
As I waited for the book to show up on my doorstep, I took some time and looked up the author online. There was a nice website with plenty of positive quotes from other authors. And the author had also participated in a blog tour to promote the book. I skipped around to see what other bloggers had said about it, read a few of the interviews, and got a feel for this person. It all was pretty positive, and I looked forward to getting the book to read for myself.
It arrived in the mail not a week later, and I happily opened up the package as I waited for my kid's school bus to arrive. I skimmed the first few pages, but before I could make any judgements, the bus showed up. I put the book away and waited until several days later when I got back to it with some quiet time to read.
When I did, I was surprised. It was not at all what I expected. What I mean is, I did not like it at all. I read the prologue and first chapter, and put the book down in dismay. After only the first twenty pages, I could not believe people had read this book and given such rave reviews as they had all over the internet. Over the next few days, I continued reading the book, but dreaded having to sit down with it again each day. I struggled through chapter after chapter, until I could not take any more and skimmed through the rest to find out how the characters fared in the end.
And so, I arrived at my dilemma. I had agreed to give a review, and I did not have official review policies that state I am NOT obligated to review a book if I do not find it worthwhile. I could not in good conscience give a positive review simply because I feel obligated to be nice. What if someone else read the book and saw my review and thought Holy Shit- that Amanda is a bad judge of writing! Nor did I feel like I could not review it at all. I said I would. I felt stuck.
After some hemming and hawing, and Rob's input, I decided to do an un-review. I left a mediocre, lukewarm review on Amazon. And I figured I could blog about how I truly felt about the book, but leave out the book and author's name, so as to protect the innocent. I don't want to be mean, I just want to be truthful.
The storyline of the book is what I think the author spent most energy on. It is a decent story, with a good arc that brings you back around to the beginning. There are moral issues, life's struggles, and good descriptions of people throughout. I appreciated that. I could even get behind several of the characters, and feel their pain, and want them to succeed.
What I could not get around was the bad writing. The perspective was jumping back and forth between characters within pages! With no hint to the reader at all. There were no pauses for effect. One sentence we were with Joe, the next with someone else. There were plenty of ups and downs, but it felt stagnant and flat throughout. The tone was evident, but it felt choked, forced. And there was all this local slang/dialect in parts that made no sense. The entirety of the thing was like reading one big long run on sentence that flitted back and forth between characters and verbs and highways and verbosity.
In the end, I felt like the writing, the actual sitting down and making the hard words fit with the colorful words fit with the perfect words and letting language flow out of your being and onto paper with joy and love, was missing. What I got out of this book was that the point was to be get something down and let's get this puppy published! Publishing was the goal, not writing.
I will say that the publisher was Riverhaven Books. A self publishing house that offers a whole range of packaged products. Everything from editing and book creation, to marketing and promotion. It's a bit heavy on the promotion side of things, light on the editing.
The whole thing made no sense to me, despite what I am quite sure, were very good intentions. And I am sorry to say I would not recommend it. I think the author has perseverance to produce a book, and is obviously motivated to be working hard at blog tours, promotion, and soliciting reviews. But I realized something in my own experience of this. One can publish a book, but that does not make one a writer. It makes you a published author. And the two are NOT the same.
This person may head down a path to a wonderful career, if the author takes the time to focus on what makes an author a writer. The writing.