Stacy's Place on Earth
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Thursday, May 22, 2008:
Educating the reviewer
I just read a DNF review for a book that was beloved by quite a few people in blogland. I personally enjoyed it myself, though not as much as some people did. After having read the review and noting all the valid arguments the reviewer provided, I realized that she had an interesting point and it actually makes me want to go back and re-read the book and see if it changes the way I feel about it. Maybe that's strange or stupid, but there you go. Nevertheless, it got me thinking, and isn't that a good thing?

I've been reviewing the books I read for maybe 3 or 4 years now. When I started reviewing, I'd give a brief re-cap of ths story and what my thoughts were, usually rating it with a grade or stars or something similar. Pretty easy stuff. I might agonize over a review, but for the most part, it wasn't too difficult.

Now, a few years later, I've noticed that I've been paying closer attention to reviews done by other readers. Before I would read them just to get a sense of the book, and when I find a reviewer with similar tastes to mine, I tended to make some of my book-buying decisions on their reviews. Now when I read a review, especially a more critical one, I find that it actually changes the way I read books. I've started to notice things that never caught my attention before, or at least never stood out too much.

I especially notice this with books I've already read and enjoyed. All of a sudden I can see glaring evidence of a problem or an inconsistency that I was able to let slide. Maybe it's the unlikely way the hero thinks or communicates. For example, the author might have him moping around, wondering whether the heroine is truly his destiny (and if she'll call him). I can't think of any guy that I know who talks like that, but I believe a lot of women, myself included, want men to be more intuitive and sensitive to their needs so to read dialogue where the hero is saying what I think I want to hear never bothered me before. But when I thought more about it, I know that if a guy started talking like that to me in real life, I'd probably think he was a complete wuss. Seriously.

Another issue is when it comes to historical romances, and how many of the heroines end up being virgins. Now I admit I actually prefer that the heroine be a virgin in the historicals I read (I know, I know, how archaic of me) but I have slowly started to change my mind about this one. After all, why should the guys have all the fun? And it's totally hypocritical for any heroine who's not a virgin to have had an unsatisfying and/or horrible experience with sex prior to hooking up with our manly and virile hero. Other reviewers really helped me see the light on that one.

What do you think:

Have reviews opened your mind when it comes

to the books you read?

Have you changed the way you review because of what other readers think?

I'm curious to know your thoughts and whether or not reviewing has impacted your reading experience.
Also, the Plotmonkeys have a great post up today about thanking our troops. I know I've used this site before myself, and it's always good to be reminded. Go ahead, take a look, send a note; it's completely free.



  1. I read the review you're talking about and thought that the reviewer fell prey to the 'everyone is hyping this book so i should judge it by higher standards' thing. Expectations are killer. There is no way that that book deserves to be lower than an F (which is what DNF connotates to me). Frankly, that says more to me about the reviewer than the book.

    Hey, I would be glad if all of the books getting published were perfect in every way, but lord knows that there are precious few original and fresh things in the historical genre these days. When I find one that has a spark of originality, I am willing to overlook some of the nitpicky pedantic details. But clearly, that's not the case for everyone. To each their own. I would rather give props to authors that are at least trying to break out of the box than give a string of ho-hum B and C reviews to the same-old-same-old books. I think DNF is a cop-out. Unless the book is truly awful (ie. Cassie Edwards awful). Anyways, yeah, clearly I didn't care for that particular review. lol.

    Idk, I just like to read. Sometimes reviewing takes the fun out of it. Can I tell that there are plot inconsistencies or character issues when I'm reading? Yeah, sometimes. But if the writing is good enough to engross me and cause me to sit on my ass for the entire day devouring the book, then I'm probably going to give those 'errors' a pass. Because for me, in the end, it is about being taken to another time and place, if only for a brief stay. *shrug*

    That's my take anyways. lol. :-)

  2. If the majority of reviews are all the same I will take them into major consideration.
    Kristie and I did a thumps up/thumbs down review of Elizbeth Hoyt's latest and both our views are very different. She loved it, but I didn't. So, if I was reading these two reviews I would go get the book because each of these reviews have a different opinion from each.

  3. Sula, you said it SO much better than I could, girl.

    My jaw dropped when I read that same review. I mean, I get that the book might not work for you. Hey, I really didn't like Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas, a book that friggin' everyone loved. I gave it a C. Not a DNF.

    The other thing that struck me in that review is that the reviewer said over and over again how well written she thought the book was. Mmmkay, if it's well written, even if the story had inconsistencies, doesn't that merit better than a DNF? Dunno, I had a hard time with it.

    Now, full disclosure, the book being reviewed sent me into a month long reading slump I was so blown away by it. I adore the book and have re-read it twice. And it worked just as well for me both times. That being said, there are tons of books that work for me that don't work as well for others and vice versa.

    Kate, I like the dueling reviews thing. Especially they give opposite opinions. It gives the reader a more rounded reaction to the book. I sincerely hope you and Kristie do more of them.

  4. I am still in my infancy when it comes to writing reviews. My poor baby blog is only a couple months old. I read a bunch of reviews by different people to get a feel for how it is being done (synopsis, opinion, ratings, etc.) That said, I read for escapism. If I read a book with the intention of "I am going to review this", I tend to distance myself mentally from the story. I don't connect as well with the characters. I read with a critical mind. This causes me to enjoy the book less and give a lower review. If I pick up the book just because I am excited to read it, I tend to enjoy the story more. Those are the reviews that probably get a little fan-girlish. :)

    I read reviews by other people to get an overall feel for the book. As someone else mentioned, if the reviewer has liked some of the same books as I have, I may give more weight to their opinions. Some reviews (ripmybodice) I read for pure entertainment value. I loved seeing the Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down reviews. It was interesting to see the divergent view points and opinions. Even a negative review can be enlightening.

  5. I know I'm silly, but for the most part, I try not to read reviews unless they are written by someone I "know" and who's opinion I respect. I don't let a review affect my opinion of a book. Heck, I read so many books that I like that others massacre that I might begin to think I have horrible taste in books. ;oP

    That said, I have found new authors from friends' reviews because they were so glowing. Sometimes, I'll pick up a book just because the reviewer was so horrible to it I want to see why.

    What is this book you all are speaking of? Stace, wanna email me the title and author? ;o)

  6. I weigh all review differently. If it’s from someone I know and we have very similar taste then I tend to weigh a little bit more with what they have to say but unless they say that they hated to book and give really good reasons why I tend to read it anyways. I do the same with movies. I had someone tell me they really didn’t like 27 dresses and liked knocked up better. I personally didn’t like knocked up very much but really enjoyed 27 dresses. So I just look at it to each their own. (And this is why I don’t write reviews very often because my thoughts go everywhere lol :op)

  7. Yep. Positive reviews tend to have more impact on me. If a ton of people like a book I will usually add it to my TBR list, even if it is simply out of curiosity. Just because someone did not like a book does not mean I will put it on my "will never read" list. I tend to figure it was a matter of personal taste. I like to give a chance any book that has an interesting sounding plot. The plot/back blurb is why I tend to either say yay or nay to a book.

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  9. I have no idea what review or site you're talking about so I'm not speaking about this review or this blog in paticular just in general.

    I try not to read too many reviews lately. I'll tell you why, it seems to me, some sites give 9 out of 10 of the books they read terrible reviews. I read a lot and I really enjoy most of the books I read. I wonder how people can dislike so many books and keep reading. LOL. If I disliked that many books I think I'd be discouraged and probably wouldn't read nearly as much as I do. That's just me though.

    I read reviews on some review websites and on blogs that seem to me to have an even balance of books they like and dislike but steer clear of the majority of review blogs. I think all books are so different to everyone. I might get something totally different out of a specific book than you do. Does that make me right and you wrong or the other way around? I hate to think of an author losing potential readers that might have ended up loving their book because someone wrote such a negative review about it. And I hate to think of readers losing a chance to find a new author or book that they might fall in love with for the same reason. I'm not saying the reviews I usually don't read don't have a right to be posted either. Everyone had a right to their own opinion and to post whatever they want on their blogs but I personally try not to take it to heart if the review is bad. I'm like some of the people that commented here, I'm much more likely to listen to a good review over a bad one. Don't know why but I am.

    I read for escapism so if there are little inconsistencies's I can look them over if the writing style attracts me and I connect with the heros. That doesn't give a free pass to put anything in a book but it's human error, things get missed.

    Sula said:
    Because for me, in the end, it is about being taken to another time and place, if only for a brief stay. *shrug*

    I couldn't agree more.

  10. okay, I totally can't spell or type. Ignore me, LOL.

  11. heh. I thought I had turned on the comment notification for this but I guess I hadn't. I expected to come back to see myself taken to task for being so blunt. lol. But apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way.

    In any event, I don't want to sound like I have an issue with bad reviews. I certainly don't. I think reviewers should be honest. But I think that it's also good not to take things toooo seriously. Anyways, I read for me. What I like. I'm not sure if I've written a DNF review yet. Probably because if a book was bad enough for me not to finish it, I can't be bothered to waste even MORE time on it by writing about it. lol. (of course, I am also very lazy which may factor into the equation).

    btw, MK, I should probably thank that particular reviewer. Now that I know that her tastes and mine are polar opposites, I won't bother reading Private Arrangements (which she can't say enough about). If she loved it, I'm pretty sure I'll hate it. So it was a helpful review if it saves me from reading a book I won't like. lol. Not sure if that was the intent, but it works in a roundabout way.

  12. Thank you everyone for your input. I think readers do have to ignore a lot and just try to read for the enjoyment of it. But I wonder how I would have felt about this book if I had read this review first, you know? It made me realize how reviews color my opinion sometimes, whether I like it or not.

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