Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Reviewers Life

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a reviewer. Sure, it's great to get free books from the publishers (especially when we get them in advance of the publication date!) And it gives me a warm feeling to write a good review and know that I'm helping both the readers and the author. But...there's a down side, too, which is having to write a negative review.

I have a Baby Blues cartoon taped up on my bookshelf. Zoe is reading a book and her dad asks how she likes it. "It's terrible!" she replies. Her dad asks why she is still reading it, and she answers, "If somebody went to the trouble of writing a book, the least I can do is read it."

That pretty much sums up the reason I have trouble writing a bad review. Somebody wrote the book; somebody spent days and weeks and months and maybe years poring their heart and soul into the book. How can I criticize the book without hurting that someone? I remember saying once that I could never be a manager because I could never fire someone or give a bad performance appraisal. "Sorry, Fred, you just aren't doing a good job." How could I ever look someone in the eye and say that? Writing a bad review is kind of like that.

And yet, as a reviewer, I have a duty to the people (that's you!) who depend on my reviews. I've read a couple of books lately that I just didn't like, and some of them were praised highly by other reviewers. If I don't give my honest opinion, how can you, the reader, make an informed decision, based on all the opinions, about where to spend your time and money? So, I'll just have to brace myself and write an honest review, in the gentlest way possible.

A reviewers life is hard. Now, don't you feel sorry for me? OK, I'm off to read my advance copy of Eldest so that I can review it for you. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it...
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