Why I’m Not Writing a Review

I had a review all written and ready to post today, but I have changed my mind.  The book I was reviewing was one I was thoroughly unimpressed with.  Though I could tell the writer clearly has a lot of potential, this particular book was not well thought out and needed some serious editing.  But as I had been given the book in exchange for a review, I was going to post about it anyway.

However, after talking to the writer (who took it all very professionally I must add), I have been forced to reconsider myself as a reviewer.  I mean, who does it actually benefit if I write and post a scathing review on a book?  I would say it benefits my readers so as to tell them not to bother reading the book – but if there’s very little chance they would have even heard about it if I don’t mention it, that sort of seems to defeat the point.  It could be said that it benefits the author, as they hear my feedback and can use that to make an amazing book next time; but this doesn’t need to be public as I can just message them myself and leave them to decide whether or not to take my criticism.  So I’ve come to realise that there is no point writing very negative reviews (I’m talking so negative I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone due to the quality, not due to it not being to my taste).  As I rate everything I read on Goodreads anyway, sharing a one star is a clear enough message that I don’t like the book in question.

So I’m afraid there is no review to read today – though there will definitely be one up next week. I would love to hear your views on giving negative reviews and how you deal with it, either in the comments or on your own blog. 

Until next week.

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Review: Lost and Found in Russia by Olga Godim

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What’s It About?

When Amanda suddenly discovers that her daughter, Gloria, isn’t actually her real daughter as she was switched accidentally at birth, she travels around the world in search of her birth daughter, determined to bring her back to the safety of Canada.  Meanwhile, when Sonya, a Russian Jew living in Canada, kicks out her drunken husband, Alexei, she not only has to battle financially, but against her daughter, Ksenya, who won’t forgive her for sending Alexei away.

My Thoughts:

The story is told from the points of view of Amanda, who is searching for her real daughter, and Sonya, who is struggling with everything in life at that moment.  Due to the kind of story it is, it doesn’t take a lot to work out what is going to happen, and there really aren’t any surprising plot-twists.  However, I don’t feel that this was an issue, as it is a story about the characters and them trying to find their own identities.  I personally would have liked to see more of Amanda’s daughter, Gloria, as I found her struggles particularly interesting, and I was very annoyed at Amanda’s discard for her feelings.

While this novel had an interesting (though not original) hook, I found that the telling of it fell a little flat for me.  The main reason for this was the character of Amanda – I just could not bring myself to like her, or even understand her reasoning.  This meant that the story, which is about discovering identity, didn’t really hold me as I couldn’t follow Amanda on her emotional journey.  That said, I found the opposite to be true of Sonya and Ksenya.  They both felt real and I wanted to find out what would happen to their relationship.  However, I really struggled with their names as I have no idea how to pronounce Ksenya, and every member of their family had at least two names (one Russian, one ‘Western’), and Sonya was also referred to as Sofia which just made the story difficult to follow and a bit confusing.

As well as the name issue, I did struggle a little with the flow of the story as the author uses commas in abandon, particularly in the first half of the book.  I don’t normally mention grammar as even badly written novels can still be enjoyable if it’s a good story (though, as a writer, I of course would prefer a well-written, enjoyable story), but in this instance, it frustrated me enough to not want to continue reading at points.

In generally I found this to be an okay read, with a few moments that really shone.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it (though I also wouldn’t  dissuade anyone from reading it), but I will be looking forward to future work by Olga Godim, as I think that with a bit of experience, she could create truly compelling books.

Overall rating: 25/5

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[Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]

 

 

Review: When the Bough Breaks by Connie Monk

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What’s It About?

When Dennis and Kathie fall in love and start creating a working farm, they can only imagine a wonderful life together.  But when World War II is declared everything starts to change as Dennis leaves to fight, leaving Kathie to manage the farm herself.  Soon after, another tragedy strikes the family and neither Dennis nor Kathie know how to deal with it; their sorrow and grief wedges them apart rather than bringing them closer together.  Can they learn to live with one another the way they used to, or have they both been changed by the events too much?

My Thoughts:

When I picked it up, this seemed like a typical story of how the war forced couples and families apart, but now I am not so sure.  While the back cover implies that it is only the war that causes problems, there is another event that overshadows it.  I think the author would have done better by choosing one event or the other to explore, as this book wasn’t long enough to fully give the effects of each event.

There are many events (some linked to the war, others that aren’t) that change who Kathie and Dennis are, and therefore have an effect on their relationship.  However, for me, I found it difficult believing in their relationship before they had to deal with war and tragedy.  I felt frustrated as, while the characters seemed to think they were the opposite sides of the same coin, it was clear from their actions, thoughts and words that they didn’t truly love each other (in my opinion).  Lacking this fundamental relationship, I found it difficult to care what happened to it, which is what the entire story is based around.

Despite this, I did find I enjoyed seeing how events and other people can change a person.  This book is filled with various loving relationships, all around the theme of family, and that is what I liked about the story.  I do feel that due to the number of characters, not all relationships or characters are properly explored, and I have been left with the feeling that everything seemed to end up a little too conveniently for my taste.  The ending doesn’t quite seem to fit the nature of change that is followed throughout the story, though admittedly it is hinted at.

While this book was a fairly quick and relaxing read, I felt that for its genre it was unable to stir deep emotions within me that would have allowed me to appreciate the awfulness of the tragedies.  Therefore I can’t recommend it when there are so many amazing books out there that you could be reading.  However, this story would probably suit someone who is interested in the home war effort (though this isn’t explored that thoroughly), or wishes to explore the idea of family and what it means.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Review: The Lessons by Naomi Alderman

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What’s It About?

It is December of James’ first year at Oxford University when he meets Mark Winters, a meeting that will change his entire life.  Mark belongs to a different class than James – he is rich and, as a result, knows he has the power to do anything he wishes, to anyone he wants to.  James gets sucked into this world, with new friends and the life of the permanently privilege, in the way that Alice falls down the rabbit hole.  When University finishes, each of the group of friends James has spent the last four years with, go into the world in radically different directions. Until tragedy strikes and James is forced to come to terms with who he has become because of Mark.

My Thoughts:

This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read and already the rest f Naomi Alderman’s books are on my ‘to be read’ list.  The story is told from James’ point of view, and is split into three parts: The Lies; The Trappings; and The Lessons though it is in chronological order with the chapters clearly stating when it is taking place.  While this is unusual for a fictional story, this structure only added to my reading and understanding of the novel.

I have to admit I was unsure what to expect when I picked up ‘The Lessons’ at the library, and wasn’t even sure of my response as I started reading it.  However, the horrifically honest and emotionally wounding storytelling pulled me in and made me want to stay immersed in a world of confusion, lies, love and friendship.  Alderman is a very talented writer, with the ability to not only create beautiful prose, but reach deep into the very essence of living that makes the reader apply the words to their own understanding of their lives.  Take this quote, for example:

No wonder we spend our adult lives feeling we’re simply pretending to know what we’re doing.  After sixteen years spent doing exams, where the lessons we’ve received perfectly fit the challenges we’re faced with, our preparation for the unpredictable events of normal life will always seem and haphazard. pp 49

When I came across it I knew that I had stumbled upon a writer who not only knew how I felt about life, but was able to explain it in a way that would never have occurred to me.

There is nothing that could be described as ‘happy’ about this book, as it is more a reflection of life told through a story of a life that is unlike any you probably will ever meet someone having lived.  Because the fundamentals of life transcend any particular way of living, this is the perfect book to read to give yourself an insight into a world you cannot imagine, while constantly making you look and examine your own opinions about life.  From reading this review you might imagine that this is more a theoretical or philosophic novel, but it is anything but, as at all times it focuses on the characters and their lives, and is therefore a much more personal reading experience than a book on philosophy.

This novel is in no way a quick, easy, happily-ever-after read, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere.  Personally I would recommend this book to everyone as I feel that there is no one who won’t benefit from reading ‘The Lessons’, but bear in mind that reading this is an investment and may change your entire outlook (or simply allow you to dwell in a well-told story that will stay with you long after you have finished it).

Overall rating: 5/5

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