Thursday, June 07, 2012

Not To Get Greedy

The whole theme of this blog is greed, avarice, and book gluttony, so I don't know why I keep pretending that I can protect myself from this problem.  The library has been a big problem lately, but there's a new player in the gluttony game.

I've recently started getting a few books from NetGalley, which is a service that allows reviewers (including bloggers) to request electronic advanced reader copies of upcoming books directly from publishers.  For a while there I couldn't figure out the system and wasn't really using it, but more recently I've made a few requests and gotten some ARCs.  Code Name Verity was the first one, actually, and I loved that book inside out.  Since then, I went a little wild with the requests, and now I've got a new glut to handle.

There are a few problems with this.  First, while there's no official obligation to read and review them, there's a personal obligation.  They're trusting me to behave like a real reviewer, and that means reading the books promptly.  From a more self-centered angle, people who post reviews are more likely to get approved for future copies.

But the real reason this glut is a problem is this: I rarely pick a book based solely on its cover and blurb.  Usually there's a personal recommendation, a preference for the author, and/or the ability to skim a few pages.  Here, there's almost nothing--the cover, the blurb, possibly some info about the author's other work.  Some of the publishers are mainstream, others are niche.  There's no way to know what you're getting into.

And I got into some baddish places.  In my desperate quest for something to fill the need left by Sarah Tolerance, I grabbed a Regency mystery called Hawkwood.  I realized pretty quickly that it was not a book for me.  I won't say it's a bad book--it might be, it's a bit hard for me to tell--but it was just not great.  The writing was a bit cliched.  The plot was a bit hard to grasp.  The characters were a bit pat.  It was all just a bit blah to me. 

So: do I could that paragraph as a review and post it to NetGalley?

You see my problem.  I'm clearly not going to write a dishonest review just to be nice.  I like to think that, even if a good friend wrote a book, I'd at least abstain from reviewing it before writing a fake rave.  (Or go with the classic "As readable as Tolkein!" which an unnamed author provided as a blurb for a friend's book, keeping his dislike for Tolkein a secret.)  But it seems kind of wrong to write a rant about how bad--or even how mediocre--a book is.  I guess I kind of blame myself for choosing poorly.

Anyway, I've spent a week kind of agonizing about it, trying to write this post, but I think I've gotten past that.  Mostly this just means that I'm just over my initial flush of flatter at being acknowledged as a reviewer by NetGalley.  I've got plenty to read without claiming random stuff there.  And I'm still working my way through three or four books I got from them.  There's another one that I'm hating, but that one is worth a post to itself--THAT'S a negative review I'm going to write, just because I read the author's previous book from the library, and I have a reasonable amount invested in spiritual memoirs, so I want to get it right.

So: goodbye, Hawkwood.  I appreciate that the circumstances surrounding your presence in my Kindle made me think, even if the characters, plot, setting, and language did not.  I move on with a free heart and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

1 comment:

Aarti said...

Oh, I know exactly what you're going through! I thought I had so much time to read between school and starting the job that I accepted all sorts of review copies, many of which I haven't gotten to yet (though I did read many!). And when I go to the library, too, I just can't prioritize the review books over the ones that I want to read RIGHT NOW. It's quite dangerous, really! But really, the only solution for me to not feel buried under obligation was to drastically cut the number of review copies I accept. As for writing negative reviews... well, you only promised them a review, not a specific type of one.