|Courtesy The Estella Society|
Sometime last year, I decided to be a little more diligent about using my GoodReads "to-read" shelf and started immediately adding interesting books that I heard about from bloggers. I have yet to tackle that list (oops), but there were two books I read last year that were only brought to my attention because of the splash they made in the book blog scene.
1. I hated it: The Martian
That's right. I hated science fiction's 2014 darling, The Martian.
But I saw so many people reading and raving about this book, though not so many that I became skeptical. My tastes are swayed by a very precise hype-to-obscurity ratio: enough people (preferably of differing tastes) have to mention a book to get me to think it might be good; too many people mentioning it and I know I won't like it. The Martian was right in the sweet spot so I went in with high expectations.
My favorite thing about GoodReads is that even though the star ratings are inflated beyond belief (soooooo many people receiving free copies in exchange for "an honest review" = lots of mediocre books getting 4-star ratings), if you filter the actual reviews by popularity, you can quickly get a taste for what the book is actually like. Check out this quote from the highest-ranked* review for The Martian:
It's a good thing I'm so naturally optimistic, because it sure would make for a bummer book if I ever showed any signs of being depressed or having any kind of mental deterioration after spending nearly two years in total solitude!
Yeah, that's kind of the book's biggest problem in a nutshell.
This is a fun game to play with any book you hate. Like, this review for The Fault in Our Stars gives me so much life.
2. I loved it: A Tale For The Time Being
Again, A Tale For The Time Being hit the Goldilocks amount of hype: enough that I knew about it, not so much that I became skeptical. I was lucky enough to get a copy from a friend and it quickly became a "bagel book" for me: a book I didn't want to finish because it was so good; if I finished, there'd be nothing left to read!
My "what does the highest-ranked GoodReads review say?" game is less fun to play with a book you love, but it is no less illuminating:
** spoiler alert ** Dammit this should have been at least a 4 star book!
Till about the second half of part 3, I was all set to give this rave reviews 'cause Nao's story was so compelling and well written plus there wasn't enough of Ruth's woeful tone to grate on the nerves. Then Ruth's dream sequence comes up and ugh it damn near ruins the bloody book.
And here I will begrudgingly agree: Ruth's dream sequence does take the story down a weird left turn. If you're not a fan of magical realism, it won't be to your taste. Even if you are, it might still seem forced.
Though, I agree only to an extent. Even if the dream sequences was a bit odd, I wasn't bothered by Ruth's sections at all, so her parts never grated on my nerves.
I don't remember where I heard about either of those books from originally, so I can't blame (or thank!) any one blogger in particular. Just the emergent property that is the ~~book blogosphere.
You can read other answers to "Blame a Blogger" over at the BBAW link-up!
*according to GoodReads' "secret sauce," which they describe as "...a closely guarded trade secret, but the ingredients are: length of the review, number of people who liked it, recency of the review, popularity of the reviewer (i.e., number of people who have liked reviews by that person across all books)."