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rco-2
Over on the Whatever, John Scalzi is being very much, well, John Scalzi. While I was reading this entry, I said to my husband, hey! I want to do this!

And, before something like sanity, or at least dignity, could take hold, Mr. Scalzi closed his post with: A challenge to other authors with blogs, LiveJournals and etc: Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you're lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.

My husband Thomas said: People will feel they should praise your work to compensate for the negativity of those reviews. Which is sort of beside the point of the exercise, and if you do this, you will make me feel very, very, very guilty.

For the record: I don't really care about the one star reviews. If they have a point, I generally wince and take a mental note not to mess up so badly the next time. If they have no point, I think they're kind of funny. The West bad reviews are less inherently funny because I often can't tell if they have a point or not (but when I am having this dilemma, I remember the Starlog review for Broken Crown, in which the reviewer very perceptively noted that you will either love the book for the level of detail and cultural tapestry, or you will loathe it for the same reason. Which reminded me that in some cases, what people hate is the book I did try to write, as opposed to the obvious failure of the attempt to write the book I tried to write. If that makes sense.)


Broken Crown
Boring and difficult to follow
Ms. West/Sagura writes well and her sentences are well-constructed, but she skips all over the place without explanations for the reader so it is impossible to follow the story. She focuses on one character for a few pages, then abruptly switches to another leaving the reader without a protagonist. There is no cohesion or logic to the changes and after awhile, I just gave up trying to piece it together. If you want to read a long, absorbing story with a cast of hundreds, try the George R. R. Martin series "A Song of Ice and Fire". The first book of that series is "A Game of Thrones"


Hunter's Oath

I was unable to reach any rapport with the characters except possibly for Evayne, and her role mostly raises questions. All of the other characters are two-dimensional and indecipherable.
I do not recommend this book unless you want to fail to enjoy empathy with under-developed characters in a circular plot that goes nowhere and ends in a cliffhanger.


Uncrowned King(this was actually a 2 star review, but, ummm, I couldn't resist this one line)
these books were recommened by a friend (dont know if i should call him a friend anymore after trying to read through these books).

Cast In Shadow
"I honestly don't know how this book earned so many 4-5 star reviews. When I bought it I actually hoped for a "Linda K Hamilton-esque" type of book - I mean sort of a junk food for the brain type of fantasy...But I can't even finish this book. I confess I am on page 113 and I can go no further.I just wonder - who edits this krap and decides to print it? Just awful.
To describe - it's like if you mixed a bad Sci-Fi channel movie with a bad Lifetime channel movie and then fill with charecters from your junior high school."


"Very intriguing plot line, but very badly delivered. If I had a dollar for every time the word "Hawk" was used, I'd be able to pay off my new car! Geez, I understand the character was a member of the Hawks, I don't need to read "I'm a Hawk" on every other page! Whomever edited this book should be fired. This reads like a first draft dictated to a typing program. It's really sad because the story idea is very good, but its buried under so much unnecessary stuff. Save your money and treat yourself to something better."


I think possibly my favourite was the reference to "Linda K Hamilton-esque", but that is a momentary mean streak. Well, and krap, for the same reason.

But overall? These don't bother me.

I've said elsewhere, and I might as well say it here again: Reading and responding to what you've read is one of life's pleasures; sometimes little, sometimes great. When you read a book that you loved beyond all reason, you want to tell everyone about it because you want to share that experience. Venting spleen when you have wasted two hours of your life, and some brain cells, on a book that you have thrown against the wall at least twice is also one of life's pleasures. Or, well. You get the general idea.

I feel free to do this, as a reader. I want to continue to feel free to do this, as a reader. Therefore, since I want to benefit from the ability to do this as a reader, I can't take umbrage as a writer. Also: I like reading book reviews. I like reading blogs in which people post reviews. One LJ, in which I lurked completely invisibly, got friends-locked because an author took offense at a review of her work, many months after it had been posted, and in a completely stupid, pointless, ad hominem, vaguely threatening way. I can no longer read those reviews because the author did this, and it makes me grumpy. And I lurked invisibly because the LJ owner had, in fact, posted a negative review of Cast in Shadow, and I didn't want to be an obvious presence because I didn't want her to feel that she couldn't, you know, say whatever she wanted about my books.

Most people are polite and considerate, and if they know the author is reading, they will either say nothing at all if they didn't like the book, or take ten hours trying to say they didn't like it in the most tactful way possible, and I don't want them to feel that pressure.

But, I suppose in the interests of full disclosure, the reviews that often bother me are the three star reviews, because those ones are usually a sign to me that I have somehow planted a prose foot wrong, and I've missed my audience. It's those reviews that I steer clear of, unless I'm feeling manic, because it's those reviews that make me wonder if I shouldn't have gone into plumbing. It's those reviews that make me feel that I've failed the book, or the reader.

And yes, if in the next two weeks, there's a whole spate of Brand New Three Star Amazon reviews, I'm going to wonder about the sense of humour of some of my LJ readers. Just saying.

Comments

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pnkrokhockeymom
Apr. 25th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
I think this line is so fabulous it's almost aspirational, and you should maybe be proud:

To describe - it's like if you mixed a bad Sci-Fi channel movie with a bad Lifetime channel movie and then fill with charecters from your junior high school.

I hope one day to write something that deserves something similar!
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
I hope one day to write something that deserves something similar!

I have to admit I kind of liked that one as well ^^
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parsnip_chan
Apr. 25th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
You will either love the book for the level of detail and cultural tapestry, or you will loathe it for the same reason.

Oddly enough, I'm being faced with this self-same challenge. I reccomended your book to a friend of mine who adored reading Hunter's Death and I was bombarded with questions as she was trying to make her way through the first chapter. She got caught up in all the details and lost track of the characters and what was happening rather than just sitting back and taking it all in.

It had never once crossed my mind something like that would happen! I personally adore details as a rule, especially when many of them add depth to the character in indirect ways.

These books were recommened by a friend (dont know if i should call him a friend anymore after trying to read through these books).

I can see why you couldn't resist sharing! *sporfles*

Most people are polite and considerate, and if they know the author is reading, they will either say nothing at all if they didn't like the book, or take ten hours trying to say they didn't like it in the most tactful way possible

Hey! I enjoy spending ten hours of my time trying to find a tactful way of saying I didn't like a piece of fiction! Of course, half the joy gets taken away when the author loves the constructive criticism and solicites you for more advice. That always seems to happen >.<

/snark.

Although, truthfully, I have done that when reviewing fanfiction on some of the communities I belong to and typically for writers in a non-native tongue. Usually, I adore the base, underlying idea, but the presentation is so far off, I have to wonder, especially if said authors supposedly had a third party read it over and edit it before publicly posting their work. I've always adored constructive criticism, especially when I know the person who gave it to me really didn't like what they read or how it was written. I learn more from them then anyone else.

So, maybe tactfully written long replies aren't half so bad on occasion?

Thank-you for the interesting post and the reviews. Those one star reviews weren't half as bad as I would have expected. I can really understand what you mean about staying away from the three star reviews. It means they enjoyed it, but were left feeling unsatisfied or unresolved after reading your books. In your case, my guess would be because even though the story does come to a close, many of our questions regarding the characters are still left unanswered.

I know my questions about Islader (I apologize if I misremembered his name. My friend still has all of my books.) are still unanswered, but I personally enjoy it because that gives me more reason to read your next books. And really, in what life do all the loose ends getting tidied up simply because one chapter in one's life ends and the next begins? It's more realistic as written, IMO.

And before I start praising you to much, I should probably end this comment now. Again, thank-you for the thought inducing post!
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
These books were recommened by a friend (dont know if i should call him a friend anymore after trying to read through these books).

I can see why you couldn't resist sharing! *sporfles*


It's almost the kind of thing I would say, although probably not on amazon, which is why I appreciated it. I can, occasionally, get a bit heated about books.

Although, truthfully, I have done that when reviewing fanfiction on some of the communities I belong to and typically for writers in a non-native tongue.

I understand this, though; fan-fiction is written for a more closed community of writers/readers, and it's not written for a) money or b) publication in quite the same way. This isn't to say that some fanfic writers aren't dead serious about their craft -- but for some, it's more about the community and the interactions, and I would probably be very, very careful in comments there if I were commenting/critiquing.

But with a published book? At that point, there's not a lot a writer can do to change the book, so a review serves more as an opinion piece/warning for other readers, which is an entirely different thing.

damedini
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
"Krap" *snort*
But, as you said to me in talking me out of your West books, not every book is for every reader. If someone goes to the Cast books looking for Laurell K Hamilton, well, they need to learn to read the cover blurb.
moontear
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
"I honestly don't know how this book earned so many 4-5 star reviews. When I bought it I actually hoped for a "Linda K Hamilton-esque" type of book - I mean sort of a junk food for the brain type of fantasy...

Linda K. Hamilton? LINDA? Try Laurell, woman! Oh, man, I'm sorry, that's just, like.... :0 At least get their facts straight, ya know?
julii_wolfe
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
this was interesting to read. :) I liked the reviewer who found Evayne the only engaging character in the Sacred Hunts books.

And of course, because I love the books, all of them, to pieces, I just snorted at the negative views and then remembered a question I'd been wondering . . .

What is Evayne's father the god of?

(I have thought that the Kaylin books were look a sci-fi show, but that's what I like about them. I definitely am getting the feeling that you are slowly weaving together a major plot arc in the background of all the minor ones, and I'm loving it all too pieces. I particularly liked the most recent book about the Tha'lani. It did an excellent job of incorporating new information with that previously mentioned and pulling us toward a potential big battle for Kaylin . . . okay, enough fangrrl squeeing.)

Very interesting post. :)
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
What is Evayne's father the god of?

He's sometimes called Fate, Mystery, or, and this is probably the more significant title, although it's also the least frequently used one, The God of Man.
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longlegs21
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)
These are great! Thanks for sharing. You're very generous to post bad reviews for your readers' enjoyment. :-)

I've only read the Cast books, so those were the most entertaining to me. I understand what the second reviewer means about the "I'm a Hawk" thing--I had the same problem in the first book, where it seemed every voice tag was "s/he said quietly." But the story was eventually so absorbing and wonderful that I didn't have time to notice little things like that anymore. :-)

P.S. Love the cover of the new Cast book. And the blurb is so exciting!
P.P.S. May I add you to my friend list?
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
P.S. Love the cover of the new Cast book. And the blurb is so exciting!
P.P.S. May I add you to my friend list?


I will pass the comment about the cover on, because it's nice to share good news, and yes, of course, please add away :)
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technomom
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think some readers just aren't up to reading anything as long and detailed as the Sun Sword series. They're going to get confused and frustrated, and blame the book for their own lack of ability. There are also some people who just want fluff, but I figure they should have figured out that if a book is several inches thick, they should pass it up.

I don't usually bother talking about the books that I don't like. I'd much rather enthuse about the ones that I do! I did take the time to write a negative review of one book by a well-known author, because it was just SO egregiously bad that in her shoes I think I'd buy all extant copies and then let it go out of print (I think it was a first novel). I'd gone to some trouble to track it down, because I'm a completist, and I hadn't been able to find any reviews before I read it. I figured that if I could save someone else that trouble, I would.

I do try to divide "this is well-written" from "but I just don't like it," because that does happen. There are some perfectly good writers who just don't toast my bread. I generally realize that with just one taste, although if I hear a lot of good stuff I may nibble again. I got all of one author's books out of the local library recently, and was really looking forward to enjoying them. After reading one set in her big series and one standalone, I gave up. She's not bad, but not for me.
canwolfshadow
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
On a wierd tangent.. Ar you the same technomom from FARK?
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coraa
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:23 am (UTC)
I have to confess, I got to "Linda K. Hamilton" and my brain skewed off onto a tangent on a woman writing erotic supernatural romance while fighting cyborgs from the future.
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:28 am (UTC)
I have to confess, I got to "Linda K. Hamilton" and my brain skewed off onto a tangent on a woman writing erotic supernatural romance while fighting cyborgs from the future.

LOL! That one never occurred to me, but now that you've said it, it's going to stay lodged in my brain. Like a song. That you don't even like but can't get rid of, even by playing other songs that you do like.
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nicbemused
Apr. 25th, 2008 06:04 am (UTC)
When I bought it I actually hoped for a "Linda K Hamilton-esque" type of book

Someone bought one of your books hoping for orgies? ROFL!

*cough* Er... OK.

Interesting take on bad reviews, and nice that you are so philosophical about them.
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 06:30 am (UTC)
Someone bought one of your books hoping for orgies? ROFL!

Okay, I was drinking carbonated water when I read this, and it was painful. Really, truly, painful.

Partly because? So true *wry g*.
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autopope
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:08 am (UTC)
"the reviews that often bother me are the three star reviews, because those ones are usually a sign to me that I have somehow planted a prose foot wrong, and I've missed my audience."

Me too. Testify, sister.

(Oh yeah, here are mine.)
twiegand
Apr. 25th, 2008 11:10 am (UTC)
I must admit that there are some of your books that I have enjoyed more than others and some have befuddled me at times, but life befuddles me at times more than your books and one steak is not always as great as another even though they are both tasty. I will read what you write because I know it will be well crafted and entertaining. It may be disturbing, thought provoking or otherwise emotionally moving and that is all to the good.
falcongirl
Apr. 25th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
""Linda K Hamilton-esque" type of book"

Linda K Hamilton - Laurell K. Hamilton's heretofore unknown twin sister, who's apparently capable of writing something people want to read..

/snark from someone who thinks the best erotica is the kind alluded to but not written.
kattsune
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
I've thought about using her books for a drinking game. Pick a page. If it's describing a sex scene, take a drink.

Bonus!: Promises to be even more entertaining as the night goes on and the readings become more and more drunkenly dramatic.

Downfall: Short night ends in alcohol poisoning for all.
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kattsune
Apr. 25th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
/lurk

I was laughing along until I came to the last review for Cast in Shadow. While I don't know if it's worthy of a one-star review, the "hawk" repetition *was* really blatant. Whether it's a fault or not depends on what you were trying to create.

It really does seem that your main character spends a *lot* of time identifying herself as a Hawk, as though that is her primary shape. For instance, she certainly is a Hawk in the same way that some people are police officers or librarians, but she seems to take it much further than just her profession. She thinks of herself as a Hawk in the same way that hawks are... well... hawks. (Sometimes, in my snarkier moments I imagined a positive thinking guru chanting in the background "Seeeee the hawk, understaaaaand the hawk, *beeeeeee* the hawk. Now fly, Kaylin, *fly*.)

However, when a person who had nothing is "saved" and lifted into relative luxury, freedom, and security, where all of her saviors, friends, and daily activities are connected to or a part of this organization, this isn't really surprising. I think this Hawk-reliance is indicative of an unstable personality. If for some reason she was to become disillusioned with the Hawks, she would have lost the foundation of her Self.

She's still young, and she's been through some horrific experiences. It's not surprising that she's not finished as a person or a character. We can already see her evolving on a plot level, but I'd like to see where she will go on the personal level.

Anyhoo, that's my worth-less-than-$.02. I'm curious if that's who you were trying to create.

I hope I haven't offended.
msagara
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
I hope I haven't offended.

No, no offense; and I think you're the second (?) person in the thread to point out that this is not, in fact, unreasonable, so it is one of the things I would file for later (non) use.

ETA: Where non-use in this case means: less frequent use ^^

Edited at 2008-04-25 05:34 pm (UTC)
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lianneb
Apr. 25th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
You know, when I read Amazon reviews of books I'm considering, I usually read the 1-star reviews first. There are times when I've bought a book *based* on those reviews. The 5-star reviews tend to be gushing 'I loved it', but with a 1-star review, I might find "I didn't like the book because of X", and my reaction is that I *love* X, so obviously I *should* be reading this book.
lyssabits
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
I read the 2-3 star reviews for that. People who felt strongly enough about the book enough to write a review but didn't love or hate it, they'll point out what they felt were flaws along with the things they liked. I think they're even better than the 4 and 5 star reviews since those are usually, as you say, so gushingly saccharine that you get no information out of them. The 1 star reviews are just so often hilariously weird that they're fun to read, but not particularly helpful, since they have the same problem as the 5 star reviews, they tend to harp on how bad the book is without telling you WHY, or their complaints are so vague that you can't figure out what they hated about it.
ovirginsaint
Apr. 25th, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)
I remember seeing several of those on the amazon site when a fit of boredom hit me and I decided to read reviews.

At the time I'd actually first picked up your books (and I'll admit, I'd been eying Broken Crown for a month before I actually bought it) I'd just finished Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, and I was still looking for that level of detail in a book. Plus, they were nice and fat, which meant I wouldn't gobble them up in a week, even when rereading them. ;D
fyrna
Apr. 28th, 2008 07:47 am (UTC)
"Ms. West/Sagura writes well and her sentences are well-constructed, but she skips all over the place without explanations for the reader so it is impossible to follow the story."

The reviewer's got a point there. You write very well even at the sentence level. ;)

Two of my friends gave up reading The Broken Crown, probably for similar reasons to this reviewer. There's a lot of characters, a lot of details, no obvious connections or plotline driving forward, and more maneuvering than action. It's very different from the typical sword & sorcery type of fantasy.

Personally I found the book intriguing and couldn't figure out why it wasn't a bestseller, but as one of your reviewers said, it seems to be a love-it/hate-it thing. :) I wouldn't be surprised if the same goes for your writing style. It's very poetic. Both the plot-style and the prose-style in the series are very intricate.

I do remember there being some scenes where I could read the text, and it all sounded very pretty, but I couldn't figure out what actually happened. This wasn't a problem for me in most scenes, but I definitely remember the first scene with Kallandras confused me: I couldn't tell what was metaphor and what was fact -- in a fantasy setting, what would obviously be a metaphor in a historical setting can, actually, be a literal description of what's happening. I also remember the description in a handful of other scenes in the series (I forget which scenes) danced around what was going on, and I wasn't clever enough to figure out what happenings the prose was dancing around...

I suppose I should introduce myself. I'm a fan of your writing. :D I haven't read anything beyond the Sun Sword cycle yet; I got hooked by the prologue in The Broken Crown. I think your writing is beautiful. Your books restored my faith in fantasy as a genre worth reading after enough English classes made me critical of the types of books I used to read. ^^;;;

I also go by three different names depending on context, but they are less obviously related than yours are. (The contexts are correspondingly more different.. I use a different screen name in technical circles than I do in artistic ones.)
msagara
Apr. 28th, 2008 07:52 am (UTC)
I suppose I should introduce myself. I'm a fan of your writing. :D I haven't read anything beyond the Sun Sword cycle yet; I got hooked by the prologue in The Broken Crown. I think your writing is beautiful. Your books restored my faith in fantasy as a genre worth reading after enough English classes made me critical of the types of books I used to read. ^^;;;

Thank you :D. Although I often wonder if we do ourselves favours by becoming more critical because it seems to me that in the end, all it means is we find less that we love (something similar happened to me, vis a vis classes).

I also go by three different names depending on context, but they are less obviously related than yours are. (The contexts are correspondingly more different.. I use a different screen name in technical circles than I do in artistic ones.)

Do the three different names get confused, or do you keep them separate enough on-line/off-line that there's no blur?
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kywmccabe
Apr. 29th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
LKH
Heh- that review praising LKH made me laugh- especially since that author's work is usually about the same worth of year old dung. I've even given her some really nasty reviews on Amazon myself- how could she possibly compare or hope that your work would ever stoop to LKH's level?! lol.
msagara
Apr. 29th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: LKH
Heh- that review praising LKH made me laugh- especially since that author's work is usually about the same worth of year old dung.

I feel compelled to point out that as her books are NYT #1 bestsellers, she's doing something that clearly works for her readers; there's probably less crossover between our readerships though =/.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 1st, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
One star reviews
Having read all your CAST novels and eagerly awating the next. IE My copies of your books have been read so many times they are getting very worn around the edges. Also I picked up the first Cast book used and promptly went out and bought the seond one new the next day. As a writer trying to be published myself, I find that no matter what story you try and write you cannot please everyone. For my novel on ancient Egypt, Between Harm, I have been told by different people that there isn't enough detail in it or too much. The women at the book store I buy your stories from are slightly surprised because the stories as flagged as romance/fantasy novels and not something a guy would normally like. I tell them a good story doesn't just appeal to women or men. I see also you are a fan of Robin Mckinley. She is one of my favourites also. Look forward to picking up the new Cast Novel as soon as its available. Which is was sooner.
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