Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reader Expectations.

Have you ever waited on pins and needles to get your hands on a book that you have heard great reviews about, only to get the book and find it severely lacking? I am suffering from that lacking feeling right now with my current read Hunted by Amelia Elias. Don't get me wrong, the writing is not bad and the story is interesting enough, but for some reason I'm finding this book to be a total bore.

Recently I have had similar reactions to other books that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. For instance, Atlantis Rising: I was really looking forward to reading the first installment in the Poseidon Series. The reviews were good, the message board talk about them was a buzz, so naturally the book was too enticing to resist. Too bad I didn't resist, I found the book a complete and total disappointment.

The same thing happened with Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward. I was looking forward to V's story and when I finally got LU in my hot little hands I wanted to hurl it across the room. Not that it was a bad book, it wasn't. Ward knows how to deliver in her writing and her male heros are some of the best characters I've ever read, the book just wasn't what I expected. Given Ward's first four books were so good I was sure that Lover Unbound would live up to, if not surpass the previous books in the series.

Unfortunately it did not.

Instead of being riveted by the character of Vishous my attention was drawn to the secondary characters in the story. John and Phury were the attention grabbers while V just fell flat. After anticipating his book he read like a third string character, not the lead and his heroine, Jane, was just as flat.

Lisa Kleypas, Mine Till Midnight had the same effect that Lover Unbound had on me. While the writing was up to par, Kleypas' take on the story was off. Ameila and Cam were the leads of the story but towards the middle of the book I found myself more interested in Win (Amelia's sister) and Merripen (the Rom who lived with them) than with Cam and Amelia's relationship.

Needless to say I was reluctant to start yet another highly raved about book, positive that I would end up disappointed. Still, last night I put Hunted back on the shelf (unfinished) and reached for Nalini Singh's, Slave to Sensation. *Sigh*. It is really, really good. I'm only halfway in but I am already immersed in the characters, the world and the story. Luck of the draw, I guess.

My ramblings about this have brought me to these questions:

Do we, as readers, set ourselves up for disappointment? I mean, the authors of these books we love are only human, they are prone to mistakes like the rest of us, they are entitled to not knock it out of the park with each book. Yet we expect them to. Are we setting our demands on them too high? Are we putting authors on too extreme a pedestal and becoming unfairly upset with them when they do not meet or exceed our expectations? Do we ask too much of them?

I ask with this in mind: Knowing how acclaimed Singh's work is, knowing that her first three books in the Changeling series are loved and recommended by many readers. Will there come a time when Singh puts out a book that is a disappointment for her readers only because all of her work up until that point was awesome? Will her readers, like many of Ward's did, become angry at her for not meeting their expectations? Being that Nalini is only human I say yes that time will come. Will it be warranted? Probably not but it is most likely inevitable.


  1. Hmmm - I wish you'd read my review of Atlantis Rising before you bought it. :)

    I think in some cases we set ourselves up for disappointment by raising our expectations so high that they become difficult to fulfil.In a situation where an author is under pressure to produce books for publication every six months or so, I think sooner or later you're going to encounter a drop in standard. I would rather wait longer and have a better book. Though if I'd been saying this after reading Lover Awakened I think my comment would have been different (now I'm saying it after having read Lover Unbound).

    I do allow some slack, every so often, especially in a series, there has to be a bridging book. The first part of the story is concluded but we need to shift focus and move onto the next. Some authors achieve this relatively seamlessly. Others, it reads like a shift in gears, and can be jarring. But as long as the next book is back up to par, it doesn't bother me too much.

    As far as the Changeling series is concerned. I loved the first book. I liked the second book, but not quite as much as the first. And I adored the third book. I think Nalini Singh is quite adept at weaving her over-riding arc into the plot of each book. So if ever she did have a book which I didn't enjoy, I'd be willing to hang in there for the next couple of books.

  2. This is a really interesting and thoughtful post, and I agree with a lot of what you're saying. I think we do put authors on a pedestal, from which they often fall, and I also think people really get into fawning over a lot of books that aren't that good.

    I also agree with Lesley that it's probably a speed issue, too. I was reading one author site recently (Jennifer Estep) who said her agent talked her into writing a book in two months. This agent apparently really felt like she could sell an assassin book, if Estep cranked it out.

    As an aspiring author with one book of a series done and one started, I can tell you if somebody picked up my series up right now for publication in a year, the first book would be really polished because nobody was breathing down my neck for it, the second would probably be rushed, but not terribly, but the later ones would have to be cranked out too fast to keep up with those 6-month industry standards. Oh well, a problem I'd love to have!

  3. Lesley, I take it you didn't too much care for Atlantis Rising either. I wish I knew about your site before I read it.

    Carolyn, I agree, the amount of time given to the authors to crank out a book can make the difference between a good book and a bad one.

    It's funny that you mention people fawning over books that really are not that good. Lately it seems that for every five books I see get rave reviews only one out of the five books actually deserves it in the end.

  4. I gave Atlantis Rising a D I think. I didn't believe in the relationship between the main characters, thought their dialogue was bad and found the villain 2-dimensional. But I thought she wrote some of the interactions between the minor characters very well.