By Iola Goulton
Like most readers, I have likes and dislikes. My perfect novel is romance (except Amish), especially romantic suspense. I enjoy a fast-paced thriller (as long as I'm not led to believe it's actually romantic suspense, in which case I'm likely to feel short-changed in the romance department). I enjoy space opera and dystopian fiction, but I rarely read pure sci-fi or fantasy. Fiction tends to dominate my reading: non-fiction tends to be writing-related.
I also have preferences around writing styles. I like first person point of view, and while I enjoy both plot-based and character-based novels (depending on my mood), I don't like it when the interior monologue starts interfering with the pace. Like bringing it to a complete halt.
As an example, I recently reviewed Love Arrives in Pieces by Betsy St. Amant here on ACW, a romance novel I didn’t especially enjoy because I thought it was made too wordy by the inclusion of too much interior monologue. I had the same problem with her previous novel, All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, but I loved a novella she wrote for the Year of Weddings series (A February Bride).
This led me to wondering: will I read and review any future full-length Betsy St Amant titles?
My gut feeling is
Sure, I get review titles free through NetGalley, which means the sole cost to me is the hours required to read the book and write what I hope is an intelligent review, but I do try to choose book I know I'll enjoy. My time is worth something to me, and life is too short to read books that fail to engage me or capture my imagination.
Purchase price is also a factor.
One of the reasons I enjoy reviewing isn’t because of the money I’m saving, but the fact I get advance access to books I’ve been looking forward to. For example, London Tides, Carla Laureano’s long-awaited sequel to Five Days in Skye, released on 1 June 2015. I read an ebook review copy in early March. Yes, I would have waited until June to read London Tides (reviewed yesterday by Andrea Grigg), but I didn’t have to so I didn’t. I also didn’t have to part with the NZD 27.99 purchase price (or USD 10.09 for the Kindle edition).
Yes, I’d be happy to wait and pay for an author I enjoyed, but not an author I didn’t enjoy. I also think it's reasonable to assume that an author's writing style will remain consistent within the books they write in the same genre or for the same publishing house. I was impatient to read London Tides by Carla Laureano, but I haven't read the fantasy novels she writes as C. E. Laureano, because I'm not a fantasy fan.
It’s doubtful that I will be reading more books by Betsy St. Amant, unless she changes genre (I suspect she'd write great romance novellas). There are other authors I choose not to read and review for the same reason: I’ve read one (or two, or three) of their books, and haven’t enjoyed them.
The question is: how many books do I read from an author before deciding not to read any more? How many do you read?
I’ve been in online conversations where people have posted that it’s unfair to an author to refuse to buy, read or review their books based on one bad experience. I can see the value in that argument. I’ve recently read and enjoyed Firefly Summer, a contemporary romance by Kathleen Y’Barbo. It was the third Y’Barbo book I’d read, and I hadn’t enjoyed either of the earlier novels (both American historical romance).
I would have missed out on an excellent story if I had turned down the review request on the basis that I had disliked her two earlier novels. (You can click here to read my review, which partially explains why I did agree to read and review Firefly Summer). But Firefly Summer is contemporary romance, and that genre swap is the main reason I gave it a chance.
But—as always—there is another side to the argument.
I can think of another author who I like and respect as a person (well, I’ve never met her so perhaps I merely like and respect her internet persona), but I don’t read or review her books. I used to: I like her characters and I like her plots but I don’t like her style of writing. It simply grates with me, which means my reviews were solid three stars.
Anyway, this author had received a review on Amazon where the reviewer commented that while she’d read several books by this author, she didn’t like the author’s writing, so could only give the book three stars.
The author asked why the reviewer was reading the book—and reviewing it—if she didn’t like the author’s writing.Good question.
And it persuaded me that it’s okay to choose not to review books by some authors. This particular review wasn’t mine … but it could have been.
(As an aside, I don’t like the idea of authors venting on social media about less-than-glowing reviews. Apart from insulting the reviewer, it makes the author look insecure and a little mean. Anyway, I was impressed beyond words when I checked the author’s Facebook page a couple of hours after her initial comment and found she’d removed the comment and posted an apology, saying God had impressed on her that her response was inappropriate.)
But none of this discussion answers my original question: how many books do I read by an author I’m not enjoying before deciding not to read any more?
What do you think?
About Iola GoultonI am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.