To review or not? Do you review ‘bad’ books?

This is a question I have been asking myself with my latest NetGalley read. Should I review it on my blog? Or should I just send the obligatory mediocre review via the NetGalley website?

I know a lot of bloggers fall into the “keep your mouth shut,” category, and I think that is well and good. Why should a reader/reviewer waste anymore time creating content for a book he/she/they disliked? Does crafting hate about a writer and their work turn them into a troll? Yeah, I guess it could if not handled respectfully.

But just like anything in life, we have to take the good with the bad. And I think the same goes for book reviews. But here are five [d: vijf] things I think about after reading a not so stellar book in order to determine if I should or should not review it on my personal blog.

  1. Is this an author’s debut work or are they a seasoned author? I believe writing is a process. The more you write, the better you become. Perhaps an author’s first read isn’t that great, but maybe they will get better as time goes on. (Unless you are super lucky and amazingly talented and your first work is a total hit. J.K. Rowling, what a show off.) This is one thing I try to research on, and try to address if it is something that can be turned from a negative comment into a positive.
  2. That brings me to my next point: try to find a silver lining. I like to describe myself as someone who always tries to look at things from multiple angles (aka what some people might call ‘overthinking’). But this is just how my brain is hardwired. So I think that is why I try to always turn something I perceived to be negative into a positive. Or to try and get into the author’s mind, and argue for what they intended in an effort to make the review come across as less negative. Here’s an example of what I mean by this cut from one of my reviews this year:

    “The dialogue also felt a bit awkward to me. It was overly formal and explanative at times, which made it sound either cheesy or just cringe worthy. After reflecting on this a bit, I think the author was trying to set a “southern tone….”

  3. Is there problematic content in the book that isn’t addressed in a healthy fashion? Are women or other minorities used as plot devices to further the white, male agenda? Are there troubling sex scenes that seek no type of resolution? Whatever you consider ‘problematic content,’ I think these types of things should be addressed. I think it’s important to explain why you felt a book or some component of a book perpetuates something negative in society. And for that reason, calling out these things in a review is acceptable as long as you have valid points to back up your argument.
  4.  Am I not the “target audience?” As much as we want to believe that all books are for everyone, there might be times when this doesn’t ring true. Books are created for a lot of reasons, but one of the major ones is: are they profitable? A lot of market research goes into books and an author’s fanbase that come from the major publishing houses. As a result, they discuss things like which audience they want to target and capture with each read. We as readers aren’t aware of what ‘audience group,’ each book is targeting, and as a result, we might pick something that research suggests isn’t favorable to us. Now, this doesn’t mean we as readers are limited in what we are allowed to like or dislike. I’m just stating that publishers and authors might take different approaches to writing, editing, marketing, if their intent is to appeal to a specific target audience. Sometimes works don’t appeal to us  for that reason. This thought process usually generates the “this read wasn’t for me, but might be for someone who likes x, y, or z…” statement.
  5. Can I understand something better about the book or what the author’s overall message was by reviewing it? Basically, does the book you were not so crazy about have a good overall message? Is it worth exploring in more detail through your review? Is there something worthy about it that you want others to know about? This kind of also ties back to my number two [d: twee], but is more specific in what it is asking. I think if there is some golden nugget that is wholly unique in a book you’re not a fan of (yes it’s happened to me before), then it is worth reviewing and mentioning.

I know these things might seem like they take a negative review and turn it into a positive one, but I don’t think that is the case. I think this thought process works to create constructively criticized reviews. And I think it also helps answer that burning question of: do I review this book or is it just a waste of time?

The answer to my initial question of whether or not to review my latest NetGalley read was found as I wrote up this blog post. I think it is important to offer up an honest review to the team who gave you the free advanced copy, which I have done. But I don’t think you are under any obligation to do a full court media press of it, if you don’t have more than a few sentences of commentary to offer up.

How do you all feel about bad book reviews? Do you have some type of rational behind writing them? Or do you just don’t mention them at all? Would love to hear some differing opinions on this as its my first ‘opinions,’ piece! 🙂

Until next time my bookish friends!

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Fromage a Trois!

A special thanks to Amberjack Publishing and NetGalley for connecting me to this delectable read by Victoria Brownlee!

From start to finish, Fromage a Trois, promises to transport readers to the glamorous streets of Paris, and it fully delivers.41044566

Ella finds herself recently dumped, stuck at a job that has no foreseeable future, and soon to be thrust out of her glamorous Melbourne apartment. Heartbroken and fed up with her complacent life, Ella makes the decision to book a one way ticket to Paris for the adventure of a lifetime.

Her expectations of finding a glamorous job, apartment, and new love are dashed by the harsh realities and obstacles that come with being an expat. But still, Ella reacquaints herself with the thing that initially sparked her love of Paris: cheese.

Stumbling into a traditional French fromagerie, Ella sets upon a journey in France that ends up being quite different than the mental picture she initially held in her mind. And along the way, she finds herself again.

Fromage a Trois is a charming read bursting with humor, flavorful depictions of French cuisine, and a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps ones interest.

When Ella first arrives in Paris, she is full of social faux pas’ and uncertainty. She fumbles through the language, and even encounters a stereotypical French lover. Her character is believable and endearing. And her budding friendship and eventual cheese bet with “Mr. Cheeseman,” is just flat out adorable.

I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, and also internally cheering Ella on to find her happy ending.

While the plot is fairly predictable, there are a couple of interesting curveballs thrown to readers. The writing, characters, and setting are what make this novel the great read that it is. It’s whimsical and decadent as it transports the reader to Paris and the many delights the city has to offer.

I gave this one a four star rating, and would highly recommend to anyone who wants to escape on a cheesy (quite literally) excursion to Paris!

For my next read, I’m heading off to Paris AGAIN. But this time, to solve a murder mystery!

Death in Paris by Emilia Bernhard is a series debut of two American sleuths in Paris tasked with solving the mysterious murder of a French financier. It has been a good while since I read a good mystery, so I am rather looking forward to it.

What is everyone else reading this crisp October? Anyone escaping to other countries in books or in real life? Or are you sticking with the more traditional, spooky reads? The rest of my October reads have some air of  ‘spookiness,’ to them. So if that’s your thing, stay tuned!

Until next time, book buds!

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Seasonal Book Slumps & My Lone September Read

Raise your hand if you’ve experienced a reading slump over the last month/few weeks?

*adamantly waves hand above my head*

For some reason, I noticed I wasn’t alone in feeling unmotivated to crack open my books and read daily. The majority of my bookstagram friends also mentioned this same overall feeling of despair when the subject turned to bookish relations.

So what is up with that? Is it a result of the seasonal change? The start of a new school year for those of you have cute little kids? Are all my fall/autumn lovers out their preoccupied with creating those ‘perfect aesthetics,’ in their homes and on their insta feeds?

I think it is a combination of those major seasonal/life events, and probably a host of other facts as well.

Because let’s face it, I have no children that vie for my attention. Well, unless of course you count my Reesie pup. And I know all you human rearing Mom’s probably just sighed heavily and eye rolled, but you just don’t know. She thinks she is a human baby, I swear.

Anyway, the point is, I started off this fall season with literal zero motivation to read. I think a lot of it had to do with my stress level & workload increase at work. My boss quit, so yay, my co-worker and I get to split managerial duties on top of all of our day to day stuff. So I think I have been running at full speed so much that it’s burning me out.

I mean, I can’t even tell you how many nights I went to bed at 8:00pm because it’s been nearly every night. This in turn, depresses me because what I really want to do are the things I really love in life like reading.

Not to mention, Emma and I are plowing through the Outlander series with our best friend bookclub. And boy, does it take work keeping pace with her on these. She was born for monster reads, it seems. I, on the other hand, need more variety to my reading schedule. Not that I don’t absolutely LOVE the series and LOVE reading them with her (Emma, don’t feel bad AT ALL if you’re reading this, this is my issue, not yours). Two DG books back to back has been a little much. I’m pretty sure I lifted my hands skyward and sang the Hallelujah chorus when she said she wanted a break between An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Hearts Blood.

So yeah, this month of September has been a total vicious cycle for me as far as goal setting and goal missing.

I am happy to report though that I did finish one (1) book this month! Yay, for seriously small victories! *does a little happy dance* And it was a NetGalley read, so I even felt a little more accomplished than I normally do. 🙂39864868

Nell and Lady tells the story of two girls, one white and one black being raised together against the backdrop of Charlestown, SC in the 1970s.

Some horrific act occurs on the night of Lady’s 16th birthday party that alters their lives and their friendship forever. It isn’t until their mother, Willa, is diagnosed with cancer that the two woman’s paths cross again decades later.

Both women are still nursing old wounds they’ve carried within them since that night while attempting to raise their teenage children to be better than themselves.

A tragic twist of fate makes them come to realize the true meaning of family.

I gave this book 2.5 stars. There were quite a few things about it that I just couldn’t get over or that just didn’t resonate well with me.

First of all, the author does make some bold moves to touch upon some major social issues that still pop up in our media today. She takes great care to also throw in some great references to modern day works that all of us in the bookish community and food lovers in general can appreciate. But the problem I had with her highlighting the issues of racism, sexual abuse, adopted families, and many more that I won’t bring up, is that she just touched upon them. They weren’t really explored as fully as they could have been in order to bring about better growth and understanding in these characters. I felt like I wanted more emotional depth as a result.

Another thing is the characters felt a bit stock-ish. Sure, they went through a transformation, but it wasn’t until the last couple of chapters. The main reason for their reconciliation in the synopsis is misleading. And I was surprised that an ailing parent wasn’t enough for these two girls to really get over the past, or at least hash it out, and then try to make the most of the time they had.

The dialogue also felt a bit awkward to me. It was overly formal and explanative at times, which made it sound either cheesy or just cringe worthy. After reflecting on this a bit, I think the author was trying to set a “southern tone,” but if that was the case, I wanted to be transported to the south. I didn’t feel a deep connection to the setting (merely mentioning landmarks in Charleston, to someone who has never been doesn’t really do much), and as a result, the dialogue didn’t always work for me.

Wow. I have been so overly negative in this review. So let me talk about some more things I did like about this.

I really did like that Ashley Farley took “the sins of the past,” and kind of replicated similar issues in the lives of Nell and Lady’s children. Booker and Regan’s story paralleled their mother’s a lot, which made for nice juxtaposition whenever the narrator shifted. Also the fact that they act as the catalyst for a lot of things in this story was a nice surprise that you didn’t get from the synopsis.

I also liked that Booker and Regan stayed strictly friends throughout this. I love an author who can create a male/female dynamic that is strictly platonic. Because hello, it can happen. Their relationship also reminded me a lot about one of my guy friend’s from high school, so I was really drawn to that.

Also, I read something in her acknowledgments that made me feel less bad about not loving this book. Farley took a moment to thank her editor by saying that she was appreciative for becoming a stronger writer from her efforts, but she also was glad she could still sound like herself. Anyone who writes for him or herself first deserves respect in my eyes. I thought to myself, good for her to staying true to herself and her writing.

All in all, I want to thank Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read this story. I never read anything in the southern genre before, although I have a quite a few books on my TBR shelf now. I hope this book does the author well. It seems like she has a good following and fan base to date.

Anyone else read Ashley Farley’s books before? Am I totally off base with my review here? How is everyone doing with their reading this fall? Let’s talk if you’re feeling slumpy or just coming out of one!

Until next time, book buds!

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In the Midnight Room

Another NetGalley read finished for the month!

This vacation week hasn’t just been all play and no work. Ok, so maybe it MOSTLY has been all play and no work. There’s just something relaxing about being able to stick your toes in the sand and unwind to the sounds and smells of the ocean while diving into a good book.

In the Midnight Room by Laura McBride was one I got through NetGalley, just because. I honestly didn’t expect when I signed up for the site to be approved for nearly every single read that I requested. It is a lot different than those near impossible Goodreads Giveaways. Seriously has anyone out there won one of those?

But anyone, this one had the earliest pub date (which I missed by about a week) so I went for it. And this one was pretty good.

In the Midnight Room

Three women from different decades with diverse backgrounds find their lives intersecting in unexpected ways. All set against the backdrop of Las Vegas and the up’s and down’s that encompass this area.

We first meet June, a free spirited woman who left a small town in Jersey for the bright lights and excitement of Las Vegas in the 1960s. June’s story was intriguing given her aversion to segregation in the casino she ran with her husband. She was a trailblazer, someone who truly didn’t care what people thought of her differing opinions. I found her sections the most enjoyable to read and got through those ones the quickest.

Following June we meet Honorita, a Filipino mail order bride, who ended up striking it rich in America. Her story was tinged with sadness, but her stony exterior made it hard to feel a deep connection to her. Still, I was glad for how things ended for her.

We also have Coral, who isn’t mentioned in the original synopsis, but she has a critical role in the story. I honestly thought her character was more deeply explored than our third protagonist, Engracia. I really enjoyed her familial relations and the scenes she had with her siblings and then nieces and nephews.

And then there was Engracia. While we understand why Engracia was the way she was or acted the did, there was a lot lacking with her character. For as much time as McBride spent flushing out the other three characters, I felt like Engracia’s story was rushed and left the most holes in the plot. I wanted to know more about her.

All in all, McBride created interesting and diverse characters with realistic problems and brought them together in both unexpected and expected ways. Not only do her characters and their lives draw you in, but In the Midnight Room, also touched upon a lot of important issues in America’s history. Alluding to critical events during the Civil Rights movement, and then turning it into a personal struggle for a couple of our primary characters. In addition to racism, this book also mentioned immigration issues, particularly those surrounding sex trafficking and illegal immigration.

The writing wasn’t lush with descriptions, leaving the reader room to interpret scenes to their liking. The style didn’t show much, but rather told the reader about a lot of things the characters experienced. It was also a little introspective at times, jumping back and forward in time. Everything had purpose and meaning and came together in the end, but there were a couple of things that could have been edited out.

The pacing was a little slow at times, but there were moments of suspense that made me want to plow through multiple chapters at a time. I thought this was a solid 3 star read, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a female oriented drama that spanned several decades and included characters with diverse backgrounds.

What is everyone else reading to close out their summers? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time bookworms!

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Time for #25inFive!

And just like that, another read-a-thon is here! Seriously, August is the month of read-a-thons for me. Between booktubeaton, #25inFive, and Bout of Books, I’m thinking it might also end up being my ‘most read,’ month. And I might even break through my goodreads challenge *fingers crossed*

For those of you not familiar with this particular read-a-thon, #25inFive is a more relaxed read-a-thon than say, booktubeathon or Dewey’s. It’s where you try to read for 25 hours in a 5 day period. It starts today and ends next Monday, August 13th. Simple and stress free enough, yeah?

Also they have a great insta presence, so if you want to catch my ‘live,’ updates then check me out here. Here I will just be posting the starting and end points for you to enjoy. 🙂

So predictions and goals for this one…

Well, I believe I might be able to actually read for 25 hours within the five day period! I do try to read for a couple hours in the morning and then I can also during three lunches. And then of course there are evenings and for a few hours on the weekend. Although this weekend I SERIOUSLY need to clean and organize sections of my house. Seriously bookworms, if I am just appearing to be lagging behind on this task, I will need you to yell at me to take a reading break and do other responsible, adult things.

I don’t know if Emma & I will finish A Breath of Snow & Ashes by the end of this reading challenge, but I am at least shooting for at least 300 pages of this read by next Monday. Emma, can you believe we are already on Book #6 of Outlander? Granted it’s taken us 3 years, but here we are!

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I’m going to attempt to finish Still Lives. It is still a read in progress (RIP, is that an acronym? Like WIP? Haha, in this case, I should use it because this book has almost been dead to me with the neglect I’m displaying). Anyway, this is supposed to be a murder/mystery, so I am hopeful that it is full of suspense that will keep my interest and urge me to read on. 36681184

I also want to try two of my NetGalley reads that I also just received this past week. The first pick is Jane Doe, which just celebrated its pub date a week and a day ago! Congrats to author Victoria Helen Stone, and a big thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending me an e-copy of the book!

Another one I might try to get into is a sample of The Paris Seamstress. Through NetGalley, Forever (Grand Central Publishing) was kind enough to give the first 4 chapters of this one. This book will be celebrating it’s publication date in a couple of days (August 11), so I wanted to give it a shot in the event that I want to go out and buy it this weekend. 😉

It should be noted that these are subject to change. As you all know a TBR isn’t always set in stone. But any changes will be announced either via Instagram or Twitter. So check it there throughout the course of this reading challenge.

Ever complete a #25inFive read-a-thon? Have any tips for a first timer? I’d love to hear from you all on this!

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