If you haven't read it, John Scalzi posted some one-star reviews from Amazon, and challenged the rest of us to do the same. And I thought, hey! I'VE got 1-star reviews! I CAN SUCK TOO!
I am not immune from sucking, even though I try very hard to write the best books I can. Sometimes, you choke up on the bat, and hit a foul ball to left field, no matter how hard you work at batting practice. And then you have to COWBOY UP and hit the next one hard and straight to center field or the talking heads on ESPN will chew you up and spit you out ... and rerun your failures ... every fifteen minutes ... in slo-mo ....
I forgot: I hate sports metaphors. Let us not speak of this again. So sorry.
Back to the subject, ahem. I've never had an Amazon review removed, and I won't. People are perfectly free to say bad things about the books if they feel the need -- they paid for the right. Or at least, I hope they did. It's really gonna suck for me if they bummed it off of a friend.
Reader reviews are not personal, they're just brutally honest. I try to look at it in a businesslike way, and after I cry hysterically into my pillow, cuddle my teddy bear, scream, fling darts at a printout of the review, and rant to my husband about how unfair life is ... I have some hot cocoa and think hard about what I can learn from this review that will make my work better.
That dart thing, though: very therapeutic. Highly recommended.
(Okay, I couldn't find any 1-stars, so here are a couple of 2-star excerpts ...)
"I was very excited to get this book, because, though I state otherwise, I love vampires books, and I love young adult novels. Perhaps I'm learning that I should not mix the two, however. The main character was an idiotic "smart-girl". Her incessent need to go to college in the face of death made me dislike her and wish her all the trouble she got."
"While I am sure it would be a better story for a young adult I had a very hard time relating to the characters. I have read other young adult books and not felt so disconnected from the thoughts and emotions of the characters but for whatever reason I just didn't empathize with them enough."
"I didn't realize that this book was for the YA market, but I read it anyway. It was a good read for a YA book and I was ready to give it 4 stars but then I read the ending! It ends on a cliff-hanger!! I HATE books that end on cliff-hangers!! That being the case, it only rates 2 stars."
Rachel: On the whole, I kind of heart these bad reviews. The first one reminds me to make sure Claire remains an aggressive character, and to give her better reasons for her actions. The second reminds me to continue to work hard on character. The third reminds me that using cliffhangers for style will carry a price, and I have to just accept that.
The Dead Girls' Dance
(Once again ... no 1-stars, so here's the 2-star!)
"What was the point of having a teenage girl who does nothing but get rescued be the protagonist of a paranormal novel written in the twenty first century. Her only skill seems to be crying on cue. She won't stay where she could be safe but injects herself into every dangerous situation available so she can be rescued. The only time that she saves any one at all is when she saves the evil vampires and their human sheep. She does this because of some haft baked moral reason. Claire has no survival instinct at all and other then being a nice girl no redeeming values as a main charactor. If you want to read about a girl being rescued read THE PERILS OF PAULINE at least that story is in a time period that fits."
Rachel: A mild mea culpa on this one, 'cause I've often fretted about whether Claire was proactive enough as a main character. But, it's meant to be an ensemble cast, not a star vehicle. I also very deliberately meant for Claire to get more aggressive and self-sufficient through the books, as she adapts and matures, so I needed to have room for her to grow. Do I still worry about this review? Heck yeah. I think he/she has a point, potentially, and I keep it in mind all the time.
"While this series is written for young adults genre, I still found myself engulfed in the world of Morgansville Vamps in the first two books. Sadly, the third in the series didn't meet my expectations ... While I think the storyline created my Rachel Caine is excellent and inventive; this particular book went absolutely no where. Nothing really happened-- it was like a whole lot of side story being squished together in desperate measures to make a book. The characters didn't grow at all, and their relationships didn't change."
Rachel: Well ... I am very thankful that she seemed to genuinely enjoy the series, but I'm sorry I let her down on the third book. What would I have changed? Not really sure. I didn't feel the vibe she did, and I can't quite put my finger on what she was hoping to see. But: respect. Hopefully, she'll like Book 4.
All right! NOW we get to the 1-stars!
"I just found the whole thing sort of... incomplete. There was too much action, not enough explanation. I wanted more backstory - how did some people get to be Wardens and others not? Does magic run in family lines or something or was it just random? How was it possible that she randomly runs across David, who is actually so crucial to the storyline, but he just sort of happens to be there when it's necessary? Why were some people pulling so hard for her to be a Warden, and then she ends up being afraid of them later when they could probably help her when she's in trouble? I didn't find any explanation for why the characters were doing what they did, other than that it gave the story some action to take place. It annoyed me that I didn't see any real motivation for their behavior."
Rachel: Sometimes I read this one several times, and still don't really understand it. But I get that she wanted more backstory, more talking, more worldbuilding. No lie, it's a tough call to know when to talk and when to jump and run in a story like this. I chose to emphasize action, and it didn't work for her. She will likely enjoy other people's work a lot better, and that's okay. I'm sorry it didn't work for her, but I'm not really sure what I would have changed. I think it's a matter of my style not connecting, instead.
"The best thing about this book is its brevity. The author doesn't bore you with long words or complex plot twists. Then again the characters are shallow and not well developed, which helps make this a quick and forgettable read."
Rachel: Ouch. At least he enjoyed my ... simplistic plot and language? I'm reaching, here. Lessons learned: um, I'm working on that one. Help me out.
"I liked this book as an overall concept. Unfortunately, I sometimes see a reoccurring flaw within in a story, and I can't shake it to the point where it ruins the whole thing for me. In this case, not to be blunt, but has Joanne Baldwin ever met a man she didn't think was gorgeous and wanted to sleep with? I'm far from a prude, but I find it hard to like a character who seems so hard pressed to sleep with any guy she meets, human or otherwise... If you can get past that, it's a nice read."
Rachel: my favorite 1-star EVER! Seriously. I'm sorry, I'm just ... laughing. She's had one lover the entire series, and she's about to marry him in Book 5. To be clear: APPRECIATING MEN DOES NOT MAKE WOMEN SLUTTY. But I still cherish this review, because it makes me laugh every time.
... Okay, this could go on a long, long, LONG time, because damn, I have lots more. But I'll save the rest of the Weather Warden series for another post.
For a funny approach to dealing with bad reviews, check out Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's Rogues Gallery, in which they celebrate (and cheerfully mock) their detractors.
Back to you, John!