Wednesday, July 30, 2014

As I Was Saying.....

So when I am not reading Herbert Hoover's bio, etc., I read distracting stuff on the Kindle.  It's usually something short and fluffy.  A snack as opposed to my "meat and potatoes" reading.  Lot's of Zombie stuff.

The other night I wanted something different and I got an email from BookBub.  It's a free service that sends a daily email with one or two low price ebook suggestions.  I love it!

On July 27th I followed up on their suggestion of "I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry...".  It boasted a #1 rating in the categories "Travel non-fiction" and "Biographies & Memoirs/Travelers & Explorers".  It had lots of 5 star ratings and mentioned that it was primarily about a young English girl growing up in Kenya as it's time as a colony ended in the 50s.

So I downloaded it.  It was only 99 cents.

Here's the same spoiler alert I put in my review.  I am going to tell you what I didn't like and you have to read the whole book to realize it.  Susie Kelly, the author, goes through her whole childhood and lists all the bad things and then there is no revelation.  At least not as far as I was concerned.  Adults in her life say and do things that she doesn't understand - typical for a child - but then, she never finds the answers.  Why did her father do "X"?  Why did her stepmother say "Y"?

Now I realize that not everyone's life wraps up in a bow with everything in order.  However, I do expect some answers when the person bothers to put pen to paper.  I read this book (it wasn't that long) straight through the evening of the 27th.  I wanted to know "WHY?".  After I finished I was peeved and wrote the review detailing this.

Here's my review -
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Easily the MOST disappointing Kindle purchase I have ever made.July 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry... (Kindle Edition)
This book was ridiculously depressing and dissatisfying. After you suffer through her whole stupid, sad life, no answers! The author dwells on all the awful stuff that happened to her - everybody has some lows - and passes over the good happy stuff. I must say I totally misinterpreted the title, lol! I thought, "I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry...." would finish up with "....but I'm not!" and there would be details on an interesting life well lived. But no, just drudgery and complaints.

I see it's rated highly and I am baffled. When you recount the people in her life who should have been there for her and weren't, I just want to line them up and slap them.

Hey, Susie, I'm here, you can apologize to me anytime you want. Thank goodness I only paid 99 cents.

The first reply comes from a woman identifying herself as Stephanie Zia, Susie Kelly's publisher.
Initial post: Jul 28, 2014 1:34:06 AM PDT
Thank you for issuing a spoiler alert, though I can't see any spoilers in your review. As you are requesting an apology here for wasting your 99 cents, as Susie's publisher I am writing to say sorry to you for having to go through the purchase of and the reading of a book that wasn't to your taste. A book you read remarkably quickly for something you disliked so much, the offer only went out a day and a half ago. I am curious to know exactly what you based your opinion on?
So I reply because you know I have no problem with discussions and people disagreeing with me.  Whatever, it's fine.

There was someone else who replied, but they were trollish.  Stephanie was engaging me in a discussion, so I paid more attention to her.  I understood she was a little hurt.  After all, she was Kelly's publisher.
Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2014 10:06:42 PM PDT
Diane Miller says:
I am a quick reader. Also, I was eager to get some answers, some resolution; so I basically sat all evening and read it in one go.

For me personally, the point of an autobiography is to learn something from another person's journey and self examination. Kelly didn't learn anything and had no answers. I'm not saying everyone's life has answers and wraps up in a pretty bow, but this was just a pity party. It sounds like a hard life, but she was just rambling.

By spoilers, I meant that I was revealing that there was no resolution.
In reply to your post on Jul 29, 2014 2:47:43 AM PDT
That's not a spoiler but an opinion. To which, of course, you are more than entitled to. Of course she could have added a whole chapter showing what she learnt from this difficult childhood: her successful life both professionally as an author, traveler and animal rights campaigner; and emotionally as a wife and mother and friend to so many who love her dearly, including thousands of fans who have never met her other than through her writing. But she's not that type. The resolution is there in this book. In one line (I won't spoil it for those who haven't read). That's the skill of this writer. I find your review such a strange one: you read the book in one sitting, you are so angry you want to line up the people who weren't there for Susie as a child and slap them. That's an emotional immersion that only a highly skilled writer can achieve. I have to say, I think the unpleasant sneering directed at the author says more about you than the book.
OK now she is apparently offended.  But that is not germane to my review.  Susie Kelly may be a wonderful person, but I am still ticked that she wrote this ebook with all these loose ends and doesn't wrap them up for me.  So I reply in this vein.  I say I can't say anything about her other books and fans because I haven't read these books.  And I say I am aggravated with the whole "says more about you than the book".  Everyone's review is colored by their thoughts and opinions and says something about them.  That phrase is a smoke screen.  I vehemently disagree that my being upset with the people who were emotionally abusing Kelly is because Kelly was such a great writer.  I wrote that a kid could scratch out "Someone was mean to me" with a crayon and paper and I'd wanna slap them too.  And I didn't like the "unpleasant sneering" part and didn't think that was a fair representation of my review.  I said my review wasn't about grinding any ax.  I hadn't even heard of Kelly before I ordered the book.  I was just expressing my aggravation.  Or something along those lines.  I can't quote it because Zia complained and got Amazon to remove it.

Then she left another comment crowing about it and mischaracterizing what I said
Posted on Jul 30, 2014 1:44:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author 15 hours ago
Pleased to see that Amazon noted and have removed the earlier comment by Diane Miller who wrote that her comments were intended as aggravation. We appreciate feedback from all readers and respect their opinions. Why anybody would go to the trouble of posting comments for the purposes of causing aggravation are a mystery, unless for the purpose of attention-seeking?
Yeah, I never said I wanted to cause aggravation.  And congratulations Ms. Zia, you have managed to aggravate me EVEN MORE!!!

So I wrote to Amazon to ask for a copy of the comment and a fair hearing.

So here I am.....beefing at you guys.  For pity's sake, don't people know better than to try and stifle me by now????


Yer Marine said...

How dare they take offense when you are merely reporting the results of the dental exam you did on the gift horse?

Helen Devries said...

You were disappointed in that, as an autobiography, there was no resolution, if I understand you correctly.

And if there were no resolution in this case...?

Gosse's Father and Son offers no resolution either....but it is still a fascinating book.

It's a pity that your review gave rise to a spat with the publisher - that is never very edifying, after all - but having read what you post here then I have to say that I think that part of the problem might lie with your somewhat rigid expectations for a certain genre of writing.

I'm not sure that 'enjoy' is the right word to use in respect of this book, but her descriptions of place are unbeatable - as they are in her books about France - as is her depiction of the child adrift in a world where she has no power and little information.

Unknown said...

I have to say that I read and enjoyed this book and interestingly the fact that it was unresolved left me wanting to read the next one as Susie has clearly come a long way since this difficult childhood.

I also found it an incredibly honest account which, surely is what an auto biography should be. Many that have neat endings and resolved differences feel manufactured to me.

BostonMaggie said...

Helen, I wouldn't say I had rigid expectations for the genre. But yeah, I did expect some resolution once Kelly reached adulthood.

I have never read Gosse's Father & Son, so I'll take your word for it being fascinating.

I am actually much more upset that Zia was trying to get me to "take it back". She was nice about it at first and then she did something underhanded. Without Zia's actions this conversation would never have made it to my blog.

BostonMaggie said...

Unknown - I'm glad you enjoyed this book and the others that Kelly has written. Clearly, you are in the majority, Kelly's 5 star reviews far outpaced the 1 stars. I think it was ten to one.

BostonMaggie said...

My Marine, as always, just seeing you reading me sets my heart aflutter!

Helen Devries said...

I see that what divides us is our view on the expectations arising upon taking up an autobiographical work...

You were expecting a resolution, something which showed that lessons had been learned, perhaps, this being the mark of an autobiography whereas the book offers a description of a process....which to me is an equally valuable way to approach autobiography.
Thus perhaps your disappointment with it?

I'm not privy to what passed between the publisher, you and Amazon so am not qualified to comment...but it's a pity that both you and the author end up somewhat unhappy...

Do you think, in hindsight, that it is possible that your review was somewhat more ad hominem than you had intended?

BostonMaggie said...

Oh Helen! I wish I could say it was. But no, this is me. I get mad. I shoot from the hip.

What transpired between the publisher and myself is right in the blog post. And I think it is ironic because, in my opinion, Stephanie is the one with the problem. Not Kelly and not me. But that's just me.

I have just finished a biography on Herbert Hoover's early life and a mining engineer. Fascinating! Not necessarily answers or resolution, but insight into the man as a President.

Maybe answers or resolution aren't the right words but the book left me cold and peeved.

Yer Marine said...

Glad I can set your heart "a-fluttah"!!!

Anonymous said...

I too misunderstood the title -thought it meant ''Wish I could , but I can't '' .I too would like to slap all the adults...but that is as far as I go in agreeing with you . I found the description of Susie being asked to choose between parents one of the most poignant things I ever read ; no she does not wrap it up all neatly because it is all going on behind the scenes and she is trying to make sense of it from the perspective of a child , trying to piece it together when she does not know what the pieces are . I cannot imagine why she thinks she should apologise to any of them .

I found it very well written and plenty in it that is not depressing , I have read and loved her other books so would give it a 5 star rating, sorry you did not like it but do you think it is worth dissing it to this degree?

BostonMaggie said...

You know what I've noticed is that most people who love this book, have read Kelly's other books. Maybe I am just much less invested in her.

But that said, no, I don't regret dissing her book. It still remains my worst Kindle purchase. It is what it is.

But the real point of this post was the fact that Stephanie Zia tried to silence my view. She tried nicely at first to cajole me into retracting or softening it. Then she tried to make me sound unstable. Then she got Amazon to censor me. Which I am still peeved at Amazon about because the haven't answered me.

If you read my responses to those who have commented here, you see I have no problem with dissention, just censorship.