A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.
~ Author Unknown
~ Author Unknown
ook reviews are the bane of my existence. I still haven’t figured them out.
Summer reading is not much different than winter reading in my world, although I will admit to reading more stories with storms, crackling fires, and warm blankets once the real temps drop below 50.
No, the biggest question I always have before downloading yet another ebook onto my Kindle app: “Is this worth $2.99?” So like most of you, I read the book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
And get completely lost and confused and frustrated.
Before You Call Me a Book Snob. . .
. . . and by the way, I prefer biblio connoisseur, I know that taste in fiction is subjective. I love paranormal romances with non-sparkly vampires, but you may hate everything fang. You like gritty mobster stories, whereas gangsters leave me cold. Some people don’t care about insta-love, but it gives me a severe case of eye-rollitis. (Honey, an “l” word is involved, but it ain’t love!) So, I get it. Tastes vary.
But that doesn’t completely explain the bi-polar extremes in book reviews. Don’t believe me? I recently read Taylor Longford’s Valor, a paranormal YA story featuring gargoyles. Yeah I know, new to me too! But then there was that cartoon/comic back in the day…Anyway, Valor has the following reviews:
5 Star – 364 Star – 123 Star – 42 Star – 1
Someone wise once told me to focus on the 3 Star reviews: they are more likely to be somewhat objective and (surprise, surprise) in the middle of the gushing 5 Star-ers and the sometimes snotty, Debbie Downer 1-2 Star people. So of course, I’ll start with those.
What’s in a star?
There was only one 2 star review and she complained about emotionally flat characters, awkward scene/time jumps, too much narrative, and formatting issues.
Personally, I didn’t notice any confusing time jumps, and no formatting issues (maybe I bought a later version or her e-reader had a glitch). I would agree however, that Longford could stand to show me, not tell me as much. And the characters could stand to be more developed. Still, I wouldn’t have given it only 2 stars.
The 4 Star reviews were supportive, but not gushing. One mentioned that some scenes were unbelievable ~ the 16 year old female lead agrees to be with the main gargoyle lead forever and seriously, all us older folks know how naïve and starry-eyed 16 year olds are. But then, this is a YA novel. And I remember being that way at 16. It’s practically a rite of passage. So it’s not completely unbelievable. Although I admit to growling at the insta-loooove.
Another 4 star-er said that she bought the book because it was only 99 cents. This is why it’s good to actually read the reviews and not just see how many 4-5 stars the book received. Seriously? You chose a book based on price? At least judging a book by its cover is only slightly less ludicrous. I’ve read some absolutely terrible 99 cent books ~ and some whose authors can weave a story like a master. Price has nothing to do with the writer’s skill and is a terrible way to buy books. So, thanks for the 4 star, but not really helpful to me the reader flying blind.
5 Star reviewers can bring on a case of eye-rollitis almost as severe as insta-love. And sometimes they just make me laugh. Case in point? One of the 5 Star-ers was written entirely with exclamation points (something all writers are lectured about extensively), while another simply proclaimed: “This book was just sooo amazing. The characters were funny and the guys sounded soo hott omg!! anaways this was just a great story im so relieved that there wasn' t a love triangle and you just have to read this book its not bad as some people claim its quite the opposite.” And yes that’s a copy and paste original. It reminds me of a cheerleader joke involving shoulder pads. That is all.
So what about those 3 Stars?
Truth is Found in the Mean
Extremes usually aren’t pretty: extreme left vs. extreme right; well-done vs. raw, etc. Usually, the mean, or the middle, is a good place to be. And I have found this to be true for book reviews. 3 Stars generally equals “I liked it, but this would have made it even better.” Or “This was a great book, if only the author had fleshed this character out a little more.” 3 Star-ers are honest, sometimes brutally so, but are not usually catty or nasty.
Thank goodness this book had no 1 star reviews. Those are usually not worth the ink (er, pixels?) used. I don't bother reading those anymore. Generally, 3 star reviewers don't steer me wrong.
If I had my way, I’d want the reviews to be sorted by bibliography chops and age of the reader (although that last can be tricky; I’ve met 18 year olds with more wisdom that some 50 year olds). Because honestly, if you haven’t read most of the classics ~ and I include some pulp fiction classics in that as well as the literary ones ~ you really aren’t a reliable judge of current literature and pulp fiction.
Oremus pro invicem,
How do you choose what new books to read? Do you read the reviews? Do you review the books you’ve read? PLEASE suggest some new titles here ~ I’m ready to restock my Kindle app!