Back in 2012 I read and wrote a review about part one of the novel Our Lady of Kaifeng by Aya Katz. There were no issues with this review, but three years later I was searching for this book to read new reviews, and I noticed a pirated copy of Our Lady of Kaifeng. This illicit copy of the book claimed to be written in 1900 with a price of around two hundred dollars. Since this novel takes place in China at the onset of World War II, and the author was not born yet, anyone who is at all Google savvy would figure out this listing was definitely a scam. I alerted Amazon to this pirated copy of the book being sold without permission of the author and wrote a review warning others about it. I assume most people would know this was a bogus seller, but I did not want this copy to take sales away from the original author.
Today I discovered the pirated copy was no longer listed on Amazon, but then my review from this copy was now listed on the actual Our Lady of Kaifeng review page. This presented a conundrum since now my original review and the one about the pirated copy were now posted together on the same page, which had to be confusing to people looking at this book. I logged into my Amazon account to delete the review about the pirated book, but the system deleted my original 2012 review instead. I had to go back to find what I had originally written to restore my review, which was a lot of extra work. Luckily I had time to do this, but most people are not going to want to delete old reviews or fix issues like this. I think Amazon should delete reviews on pirated copies of books rather than just move this over to the actual author’s book. This is just a heads up for anyone who has ever written a review about a pirated book on Amazon. I definitely will not be doing this again.
I will continue to write blog posts sharing my opinions about characters in books, but I will no longer worry about negative book reviews. I guess there is a need for those, but boy do these feel harsh. Maybe I take negative book reviews too intensely, and feel trepidation because I realize I have not finished my own novel. I am kind of scared to at this point because it seems like there will always be someone waiting to shred it.
Then again, I think my reaction to negative book reviews has something to do more with me than what others think. If I like a book I really do not need to worry about what others think about it. If I dislike a book, I do not need to make a big announcement about it. Even though I can read and write effectively, I get tired of hearing about how the stewards of the English language will always find fault how many of us are not living up to the gold standard. This is sort of daunting, really. I think this is more about my fears, really and truly. I want to be published, but I can tell you after today I would be scared with things I have read. I also get down on myself because I never seem to finish my novel, but talk about it a lot!
So it is what it is, and I guess my novel will be published one day when I finally get around to it. In the mean time I am just going to go back to enjoying books, and not worrying about the extraneous stuff.
Has any book review ever inspired me to buy a book? Sometimes it will, and sometimes it will not. Honestly, in years past sometimes I did buy a book if a book review was negative because I actually like to make up my own mind about the books I read. What a lot of people love or hate, I might not enjoy at all. My interests in a particular set of books is pretty individual to me, and I rarely meet anyone talking about how they adored Pomegranate Soup or Tiare in Bloom, which both happen to be two of my favorite novels.
Some other books I enjoy are historical texts such as The Bounty and Fragile Paradise, but this has a lot to do with these books being about a subject that I continue to find captivating to this day, and that is the history of mutiny on the Bounty and the mutineers going to live on Pitcairn Island. There are numerous other historical texts that have motivated my interest in history, and one of the most pivotal perhaps was Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, which is the heart wrenching account of how the US treated Native American tribes during westward expansion. This book is not a happy one, and you definitely have to be brave when reading the accounts of the massacre as Sand Creek with graphic accounts of mutilation of the women and children. Although this is a very sad book, it motivated me to AP history classes in high school and to obtain a history degree in college because I wanted to know more about our country’s past, and where we fit in the world arena. I have read a variety of views and often my conclusions are a synthesis of many of these. No one camp every completely sways me, even though I have been told I am more liberal in my bias.
When I was preparing for my AP US history test I read Hugh Brogan’s The Penguins History of the United States, which was a valuable resource as this volume provided an outside perspective on the American Revolution, which even the college level text books did not offer. There was a question on my AP US History test covering this topic of how the British viewed what they termed the American war of rebellion, so reading the book did help me with this question. Some Americans are under the allusion that we are perfect as a country, while going on to make derisive comments about European countries, but I find this view of history insular and facile as every country has made mistakes, and I believe every nation can become a better by acknowledging these and ensuring my equality of opportunity and education in the future. As a patriotic American I am proud of our history, but I also know we are not perfect, and others might sometimes have less than stellar opinions of some of the things our country has done. I do not like history that slants things too much on either side of the spectrum, and Brogan’s text was instrumental in providing an objective and outsider view to US history, which we might all need to read. For instance, a lot of Americans still believe the American Revolution was a popular war at the onset, but in reality most people still supported George III, and many immigrated to Canada when the British lost. Not everyone was opposed to British rule of the thirteen colonies, but after the war people adapted to their new reality and eventually came to rally around the idea of America as being a republic with a Constitution and an elected president.
The time period of US history I find most intriguing is the era spanning from westward expansion to the era of the New Deal, and I have enjoyed reading biographies about FDR, who happens to me my favorite US president. Also, I am continue to be intrigued about the Pacific region that I first learned about through my own reading as a teen, which had no connection to my home work assignments. I have National Geographic to thank for this, which has many informative articles about history and geography, which inspired me to branch off into other categories. The South Pacific region continues to captivate, and the historical analysis of Captain Cook in the book Blue Latitudes was quite an interesting read.
So do I approach books the way others do? Not usually. For instance, I rarely ever quote from a book because I prefer to remember the context of how it made me feel when reading, but exact quotes from a novel, historical text, or biography usually never sway me. In school I never enjoyed reciting poetry, even though I was pretty good at memorizing it. My preference was to draw a picture based on an event in a book, or to write an essay about my impressions of it. When it comes to how I view books it more about seeing the forest from the trees, and I read and examine a book in its entirety. I rarely and almost never post quotes from my favorite authors, and when reading each book I try into distill its good points, even if I feel like I am slogging through the text. There is no point in pretending to love a book everyone else adored, and part of learning how to stand on your own two as a reader is saying you really did not care for a particular book. It does not mean you hated the book, it might just mean you do not even care that much about it really. Actually, some of the people who are invested in writing a negative book review might be more engaged in a book that I will probably never think about again. For years I believed I had to read every book from beginning to end, but a few years ago I finally learned that by the half way point of a book I can determine whether I want to carry on or not.
Do overly positive book reviews or overly critical ones ever really appeal to me? Not usually, because I cannot really think of any book where I am in either camp completely. Even when I really enjoyed a particular book I am not the type of reader who would go to a book signing just to meet the author, and with the Internet, I am usually content just watching a few interviews a writer might share with their readers. The same goes for bands as I have only ever been to two concerts in my life, and those were not even for musicians that I truly love. For instance, I thought about going to the Moody Blues concerts when they were playing out here a few years ago, but I could not be induced to pay all that money to go see their concert in person. I can watch the old tape of the Red Rocks concerts and get the same feel. When I was a kid we used to go to this party where my dad’s friend would invite several people out on thebackside of the mountain, and local cover rock groups would play songs through out the day and night. I eventually grew bored of watching adults become act boisterous and loud in smaller groups dispersed through out the crowd as some cover band struggled to entertain people who were probably not paying attention anyway.
Of course a professional live concert can be better, but I just have these really bad memories of going to a Third Eye Blind concert in Las Vegas with people in the top balcony literally knocking their cigarette ashes down on us. Talk about smelly and ashy! The other concert I attended was Matchbox 20, which was on the campus of Cal State San Diego, and at least crowd there was more contained and sedate. Not that I am equating book signings to concerts per se, but I just do not want to be in a crowd to see a famous person, especially if I do not have a connection with that person in real life. I think my way of viewing it is detached, but my enjoyment of books might also be a bit more detached than others. I enjoy books, but rarely ever develop really overly passionate feelings about a particular author or novel .
Okay I am getting off subject here, but the point is I might like a certain author or musician, but I have never been so captivated by one that I would spend lots of money to go see them in person. I suppose if you have large amounts of funds to go do that it might be worth your time, but to me it just seems impersonal because it is not like you know the author personally, and they are usually just being cordial or friendly when signing your book. Some people go on and on about how they are offended a celebrity, musician, or writer ignored them at a signing, and I am boggled by this. There was a long line of people there waiting for their turn to talk to the singer or writer, and did you expect the celeb to drop everything and go out to lunch with you? However, I do have to say I do prefer a celebrity or writer who actually engages with followers on their website or Facebook. If you are an author or a celebrity and feel too busy to ever genuinely respond to comments or reviews, and I am not really drawn to that either. By the way, we notice if you have a Twitter page with canned status updates, and I prefer people on Twitter who write real things that some people might not agree with. One thing that I think an author who interacts with their fans has to be careful of is to make sure they do not have their supporters discouraging negative reviews because these can actually help sales, as one writer and publisher has pointed out.
When it comes to book reviews just allow people to make their own decisions. So what if some reader in Georgia or Brazil thought the portrayal of your best friend’s dog was flimsy, do you really want to get a reviewer’s case about it? You are invested in your writing, but putting it out there also means people will comment on what they enjoy and did not like. Also, you need to remember that even bad reviews are doing you a favor by giving more exposure to your book. One thing that usually sways me when it comes to reading someone’s book reviews is if they have similar interests to me in books, and I would be more inclined to either purchase or pass over a book for that reason. When it comes to the book reviews I write I try to keep a balanced a approach, even if I did not like a particular book. There are a couple of novels I have ended up writing one or two star reviews about because these were completely not for me, so I do understand the motivations of those who write an occasional one or two star review. If ever book a person reviews has one or two stars, then I might be a little skeptical about some of the things they had to say about the book. The same can be true if every single book a person reviews has five stars, and very little explanation as to what they loved about the books they are reviewing.
At the end of the day all book reviews are opinions, and you really have to be strong cookie enough to know how you think and feel after you read a particular book. My experience is the books I gush about will probably not be the ones most people are raving about, and I just expect that.