Sunday, August 26, 2012

This Book is a Bestseller? Huh?

by Leann

When I am writing a book, I cannot read cozies. Perhaps I am afraid the influence of other writers will creep in. Or I get too distracted. I'm not sure, but I know it slows my own writing so I choose other books. I am an exclusive mystery and suspense reader and have been for many years. The last two books I finished were both big and recent bestsellers. When I finished them, I was left wondering why they were bestsellers.

I won't name the authors or the books. I would never do that, nor would I ever go on Amazon and trash someone else's book. We all have different tastes, after all. And writing a book, any book, is a huge and complicated undertaking.  I also know my books aren't for everyone. But when I read what I believe is a "flawed" book and it's making the writer millions of dollars, I get a little frustrated. Am I missing something? Is it me?

One thing these last two books have in common is unlikeable protagonists. I don't know if this is a trend--but both these books hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list. They left me feeling sad, disgusted, and wondering what it is about these books that made people go out and buy them. Why did I buy them? I suppose if someone had told me that there is no redemption in this book, there is no hero, and no one is ever happy, I probably would have passed. But I don't like movie trailers that give away the whole movie and I don't read reviews that give away plots, either. So, I guess I bought these books because of the hype.

Even my daughter--who works for a literary agent and reads vociferously across genre--read one of the books I am talking about and afterward, she Googled, "Bad reviews for _______." She couldn't find any, even though she was hoping to find someone--anyone--who felt the same as she did. She should have talked to me earlier because today we learned we have the same opinion about said novel--flat writing, unlikeable characters, poor structure and a self-indulgent author. The good news is, I learn from books I consider flawed. (And I am not saying I write perfect books. I am ALWAYS trying to improve.) One thing I will never have in common in with these writers (excluding the money I will never make) is the lack of  a true hero or heroine. There will be justice and satisfaction at the end of every novel I write.

What about you? Been disappointed recently in a book you spent a good hunk of change on? I'd love to hear about your opinion!


20 comments:

Book Dragon said...

yes!

I disliked one main character so much I returned the book. It was a crafty cozy (I love cozies) and was a craft I do so I thought I'd love the book. Nope. There are others in the series now but I'm not going there again.

I read many genres and love series so when a vampire-y series was getting rave reviews I jumped. Let's just say I was able to actually finish the first book but my ending would have ended the series.

Karen B said...

I have a stack of books that I've started over the past year but just couldn't get into so I'm giving them the 50 page test. First one bit the dust last night!! Maybe I'm just a flawed reader as it had great reviews.....

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

Yes! I read (actually listened) to one not to long ago that was divided into parts: Part 1 was ok, and Part 2 (as far as thrillers go) was great, but part 3 was horrid. When people ask me about it though I say 90% of the reviews I have read were glowing recommendations so the book clearly works for the audience on a whole. I know that a bad ending can ruin a book for me (fair or not) and in thrillers it happens some times.

Leann Sweeney said...

I am a pretty forgiving reader, but these last two were just NOT worth the hype. I am reading Broken Harbor by Tana French right now and I LOVE it. So, a bestseller that I like is very satisfying! Glad I'm not alone in wanting to throw a book across the room at times! :-)

Amanda in RI said...

I'm wondering at the irony of you saying that you would never go online and trash an author's book (I'm not sure if you equate posting a negative review of a book you genuinely dislike and have issues with WITH 'trashing') and your daughter actively seeking such reviews in the hopes that she wasn't the only one who hated a particular book.

I have recently purchased a book that left me wanting to throw it across the room. I did post a negative review, and experienced a huge amount of relief at reading similar reviews and realizing that I wasn't losing my mind. :)

I appreciate reviews that express actual concerns that readers have with an author's choices.

Leann Sweeney said...

It is ironic, I suppose. But often what I find online--like on amazon--are often nasty remarks and so opinionated that the real issues concerning the book are lost. I have no problem with readers stating what they felt didn't work for them and why. It CAN be done in a polite and informative way. I believe my daughter was looking for print reviews, like from the Times or Library Journal or other major newspapers. She couldn't find anyone who addressed the flaws she found in that particular book. What was interesting is that we were both reading the book at the same time, didn't know it and felt exactly the same way about character and plot development.

Jeannie D. said...

I had read all the new ones of my favorite authors (all the Cozy Chicks!) and was wanting something to read. I found another cozy by an author I had never read. The book blurb sounded interesting. I read it and was so mad at the end I wanted to throw it! The plot just never seemed to come together. There was no continuity. I had to keep going back and reading to see if I had missed something. Wrote that author off my list for sure. However, I did read some reviews of people who thought the same thing I did. I will not trash an author. If I do write a review, I try to tell exactly what I felt didn't work for me in the book, but I do it nicely..

Leann Sweeney said...

Jeannie, I can tell you that my editor would NEVER let me get away with what you found. But I am so fortunate to have an editor who really examines what I write with a critical eye and gives me informative and helpful feedback. We don't always agree and I don't change everything she suggests, but for the most part, she is right on. Some big name authors these days never go through editing. The books are just passed on to production because the name sells. Too bad for readers in some of those cases!! :-)

Leann Sweeney said...

Felicia, I'm finding that some thrillers have sort of "frantic" endings that go on a little too long. I guess everyone has to explain why they did what they did--but often times we already know. One thing I've learned is that "the reader remembers" so it's best not to insult them with repetitions! :-)

Kristen S. said...

I belong to two book clubs to try to get me to read some books I wouldn't normally choose. Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised. Other times, I am left feeling as you did. If I want to see misery and injustice, I can turn on the news or open the paper. I read for enjoyment. Whether it is to gain knowledge, enlightenment and inspiration and or to escape.

I love reading my cozy mysteries and getting to know the characters. I will add that there are two authors I have really lost interest in because their story lines seem to repeat in each book and the characters never change(none of the Cozy Chick authors). Same personal dilema, different bad guys. I was relieved when I read reviews stating similar feelings by other readers to know that it wasn't just me. The funny thing is, as much as I enjoy reading other people's reviews, I rarely leave one myself. I'm not quite sure why.

Thanks to the Cozy Chicks authors for continuing to provide me with hours of escape and enjoyment! :)

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Kristen! If I'm not enjoying the book I'm writing, then I'm CERTAIN readers won't enjoy it either. I usually go back and find where things went wrong and fix it. Or try to!

Becky McFadden said...

I agree 100% with your original posting, Leeann. Like several of the other people, I no longer finish a book that I am not liking at all after the 1st 50 pages (sometimes I will last a little longer). Since these unliked books have been book club books (I belong to 2), I still go to the discussion, because at least 2 other people will like the book and the discussions are always interesting. I broke my rule this spring with Last Night At Twisted River and I am not going to do that again--I still disliked the book all the way to the end. The friend I passed it onto liked it! When it comes to fiction, cozy mysteries seem to fit me well! Hooray for great writers, variety, humor, and non-gory mayhem!

Lynda said...

I agree with you, Leann. I typically have two requirements for books that I read: 1) I need to like at least some of the main characters and 2) It has to have a satisfying ending (especially for the characters that I like). If I hang in there all the way through a book and it has a "bad" ending, I get furious that I wasted my reading time. I don't have as much time as I would like for reading these days, so when I do read, I want to enjoy it. I like some humor, some romance, some mystery, and maybe a little magic just for fun. I'm not looking for reality - as a matter of fact, I'm usually looking to escape reality. That's why I have been reading more cozies than any other type lately. They generally combine all the fun elements I'm looking for. You're Cats in Trouble books are special favorites of mine. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the satisfying endings.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Lynda! I try my best!

Tammie said...

I can believe that some books never see an editor. I was reading a book in which house shutters was actually spelled "shudders." I shuddered myself, and promptly tossed the book aside. Leann, your Cats in Trouble series was my introduction to cozies (I'm late to the party!) and it's still my favorite series. Like most of you, reading is escapism for me, too, and if I'm not emotionally vested in a protagonist, then what do I care if the murderer silences him/her for good?

Aurian said...

I so agree with you! If I do not like the characters, the story alone is never good enough for me. I finished a book yesterday, and I had to force myself to do that. The romance was also flat and unbelievable. Normally, I would not finish the book, but it was highly recommended, and I already have the second one. Not sure if that one will be read at all.

But I do write reviews about everything I read, and post them on my blog.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Tammie and Aurian. Tammie--SHUDDERS??? Really? That's pretty bad. Pulls you right out of the story doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I once bought three books by a new author (well, he was new to me). They were cozy mysteries, and included dogs (I'm also a huge animal fan). I was annoyed by the first book, disliked the second, and hated the third. The main character was patronizing, excessively sarcastic to anyone he thought beneath him, and just an overall jerk. Then, I read the author bio and got the same feelings of the author. I ended up giving the books away to a friend. She had the same reaction. Needless to say, I will never buy another one of his books again. I only have so much time for reading, and I don't like to waste it on bad books.

Linda A. Thompson Ditch said...

Leann, I understand what you mean by a book not going through an editor. I think that must have happened with the latest book from one of my favorite authors. I've loved all the books in her cozy series until this new one a couple of months ago. The plot was silly and never took hold, and the characters went in directions they never would have in the past. It was a mess, and now I'm a little gun-shy about buying the next one. But I guess it's possible to have one bad book in a series, right?

Leann Sweeney said...

I think we're all allowed a "stinker" at least once. You never know what an author might be going through in their personal life. Tragedy, stress, distractions. My editor has sure helped me through a lot of problems (health) in the last few years. She is patient and understanding and that is precious to me. (okay, tearing up now!) Hope you'll give that writer another try. :-)