Today just felt like a blog post type day. Though, preferably, every day should be a blog posting type day. Unfortunately, I am quite procrastinatory (oh yeah, that’s a word now), and lazy, and have a habit of sitting down to do something productive only to end up wandering off in a mindless stupor. It’s my brain, I tell you.
So since today is a rare day, I think I should post something equally as bloody: bad book reviews. Oh yesh. I know it’s my job to thrust upon you all only GOOD reviews because clearly, my book can only have GOOD things about it, and by showing you the NOT SO GOOD, I have lost all credibility as a writer.
I don’t think so. I think it’s fair to let you know what you may be getting into, on the off chance you’d like to take a peeksyboo at my bookie poo. I have enough faith in my story, and my message, that I do not fear that which is quite ugly.
And trust me, it’s ugly.
So here are some reviews that seeped into my heart and have been slowly killing me ever since.
From Librarything, where everyone there seems to either hate the novel or has a “meh” reaction to it, I present bad review #1:
“I was so excited when I first received my Advance Readers Copy of Paper Hearts by S.R. Savell (thank you Medallion Press and LibraryThing.) My excitement quickly dissipated by the time I hit the third paragraph of the opening chapter. In an attempt to be descriptive, the author bogged the imagery down with extraneous phrases that made it outright painful for me to decipher any meaningful content.
I would not have minded such writing as much, in fact, I would have gladly looked passed it and the overused clichés, had I fallen in love with the characters. Unfortunately, Michelle is so mean, self-centered, and dramatic, that it took me reading only a few pages to realize that I didn’t not just dislike her, I actually hated her. I could make no connection with or make sense of her evil thought process. I could only feel bad for the other character, Nathaniel, who in contrast seemed oddly misplaced. He was nice, thoughtful, and in no way should have been permitted to exist in the same book as Michelle.
Not without difficulty, I finished the book. I tried earnestly to find something positive to make note about in this review. The unrealistic revelations and poor attempts to gain the readers empathy for Michelle later in the book only made it more laborious for me to finish. Cursing and unwitty sarcasm was often used as dialogue. I honestly have never had such a negative reaction to a book before. I will not be recommending this particular novel to anyone. ”
Ouch. That uh, really felt like a buzzard was ripping my liver out. *tries not to cry
Book review # 2 . . .
“I have to start with a disclaimer before I start ragging on this book – The copy I read was an uncorrected proof… Sooo hopefully it is going to be much better before the actual book is for sale.
I really wanted to like this book (and I did… like it) but it was so hard to read with so many errors. There were whole parts of the book that were repeated (I think they were meant to be taken out but weren’t yet) and the timeline was screwed up due to leaving the double parts in. This just made it so hard to enjoy.
If I had to rate the book based on the story alone – I would say it has real potential! As does the author. The character development was pretty good although Michelle was a very unlikable person, she was rude, mouthy, obnoxious, and just plain mean! I would almost go as far as saying I hated her. On the other hand, I really liked Nathaniel, what a sweetheart he was (he was kind of like an open book) and clearly did not deserved Michelle or everything that had happened to him. And I also really loved his grandmother! She had such insight.
Part of the story is about Michelle being bullied at school, but she was a bully herself! So I hate to say it but she kinda had it coming! The rest (which I will not give away) she did not have coming and was very sad.
I am almost sorry that it was the ARC I read and not the finished book because I think I would have liked it better. So I wish good luck to the author, I do think she will make it! I would read her again.”
*Painstakingly pushes liver back into body.
Alright, fair enough. This reviewer, like the one before, makes valid arguments, and points out the very same errors I myself recognize and wish with all my being that I could have/would have fixed. I think today can be salvaged. Not that bad, huh?
Book review # 3:
“One of the commonplaces in writing and editing fiction is that the reader must always be on the narrator’s side. Whether the narrator is a good person or a bad person, likeable or despicable, he or she must always be appealing for the reader. PAPER HEARTS breaks this rule sullenly.
The plot of this novel is simple: despite a difficult start, Michelle pursues a friendship, and then a romantic relationship, with Nathaniel. The relationship becomes very serious very quickly, and readers follow Michelle as she discovers the kind of person she means to be.
Michelle is an abrasive narrator, and I found the first few chapters in her voice strongly repellant. Eventually the story revealed an interest beyond the narrator herself and started to advance. Again, there were problems. The transformation of Michelle’s attitude toward Nathaniel was too sudden to be plausible, and the time scale of the book didn’t make sense. During the final crisis readers learn more of the reasons for Michelle’s seething rage and bitterness, but these reasons arrive too late to be believable or relevant.
The pacing of this novel is also poor. Sometimes the narrator describes scenes in excruciating detail; other times — in one case, quite self-consciously — she skips over important events in a few words. Similarly, there are numerous unresolved plot points at the novel’s conclusion. Some of them are swept away in a few lines; others are simply lost. One of the most awkwardly handled aspects of the story is the book chase Michelle is sent on by Nathaniel’s mother. Readers aren’t even told the titles of the books, and the resolution of this plot is just silly. I felt the writer violated my trust in the narrative with this decision — but by that point, I had been so thoroughly let down by the rest of the book that the writer’s choice was no real surprise.
The recent trend in self-publishing has encouraged many writers to distribute raw, unedited work; they seem to believe that editors and publishers are censors, keeping writers from their potential readers. That’s simply not true: book editors help writers find their readers, often by saying no to writers until their style has matured. Arguably, a lack of maturity is the trouble with this book. There may be a good, and even a likeable, book buried in this text, but the reader must work to find it; and some readers simply won’t make the effort — nor should they have to. The writer should have the discipline to tell a story so that it engages readers, rather than repels them.
I have worked in publishing for almost twenty years and have never seen an “uncorrected proof” as weak as the ARC that was sent to me. I assume by “uncorrected proof” the publisher meant unedited manuscript. I hope this was a one-time error on the publisher’s part. Releasing an ARC in this condition did this first-time author no favours.
I do not recommend PAPER HEARTS. Readers looking for hyper-real issues novels can find much stronger books, and there are many other sharp, fresh voices out there who will provide a more satisfying reading experience.”
Aaand now I want to kill myself. Fair reaction, right? I think after being thoroughly thrashed, beaten, and eviscerated, I don’t think that’s too reactionary, right?
Yeah, it is. Because even though I feel attacked, worthless, stupid, pathetic, valueless, inadequate, and without even an ounce of talent or potential in my body—it’s going to be okay. There are others who DO think the novel is good, who believe in it, who believe in me. These reviews have marked me, damaged me, but not destroyed me. Do I agree with every point they’ve made? No. But can I see the very real, very legitimate issues with the novel? Of course! I was eighteen when I started the blasted thing. Who knows anything at eighteen? I’d like to think I’ve improved since then, and that if these reviewers were to ever read any more of my work, they’d appreciate the improvement.
So now . . . now I’m going to write. My second book, actually. I’m on page eight. It’s a total mess: hunks of information left out for later research, sentences written in all caps screaming NEEDS MORE DEVELOPMENT, and the oh so pathetic attempt at a title—DISEASE.
It’s progress. And I’m never going to stop growing, improving, thriving. It’s for myself, and for those who need to hear what I have to say, that I keep writing.
It’s for the critics that I keep fighting.