Sunday, October 23, 2011

What do Amazon, Goodreads, Apple, and tons of blogs all have in common?

If you guessed bad book reviews, you're right.

When you're a constant book lover and devourer you're always in the search for new books. Some of us wander into our local indie or B&N, find our section and typically pick up one that catches our eye and has an intriguing jacket description. Others like myself, we read reviews online. Reading reviews online is typically like sticking your hand into an alligator's mouth. Catch him on the wrong day and you could pull back a stump.

Readers today have a power stronger than any advertising could possibly offer, and that's reviewing or blogging about a recent book they've read and how they felt about it. And when we find a book we love, we can't shut up about it. Which is great and all, but what happens when the book isn't something everyone likes?

Of course I'm not saying any book or every book out there can be enjoyed by everyone. There will always be someone who will find the book you're obsessed with less than enjoyable. Hell, they may even hate it. When most of us find a book we don't like, we put it down and move on. But there are those who wont just stop at putting the book down. Instead, they try to put your book in an early grave.

Some people can't look past a book when it holds some kind of negative value to it within the story. Elle over at The Book Memoirs showed us a current iconic example by citing Twilight. While there are tons of us on one side of the coin objecting to the bad image imposed upon teenage-angst-romance, the other coin has people swearing their love to it because of the simple theme of 'Love Trumping All.'

After reading her post, she shed a piece of light on something I wasn't all too keen to admit. I was book bashing, too. Me, playing Negative Nancy. If my life were played on a board game of Clue, it would be me in the Kitchen with the candlestick. As Elle so blatantly points out, who are we to tell them what is good and bad? Sure, some of the stuff within the book (Edward watching Isabella while she slept... before she knew, obsessively denying her visiting rights to her friend Jacob) isn't exactly all sunshine-and-rainbows, but to some, they hold a love for it like a martyr for the cause. Thinking about it now, I can't say anything bad about them: I'd do the same for any Harry Potter book you try to abuse.

We don't have the right to tell someone off because we don't like what's inside the pages. No matter how justified our point is, no matter how driven, it's just not our place. Just because we don't like one book doesn't mean someone else won't. Maybe they'll love it and start a fan club. Maybe they'll love it and petition for it to be made into a film. Regardless of what's inside those pages, you can't tell them the book sucks when they love it. Because the only thing you're doing is looking like a jerk who forgot your morning coffee.


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  2. Sorry, there were so many typos in my previous post. Here it is, corrected:

    Aw man, I have to admit that seeing a bad review of a book I love just makes me feel ragey and/or sad. But that's the thing about writing, I guess. It's subjective and just because you don't like something doesn't mean it's automatically AWFUL or that there's something wrong with other people for liking it. So I think your post has a great message - that we should strive to respect people's opinions, whether it's to bash a book or defend a book.

  3. Annalise, you're completely right! Just like I can't bash my boyfriend for being an Eagles fan, we shouldn't be shoving people into the ground because they like a book we find particularly offensive. The point of finding different grounds within a book is so we can discuss them and analyze and find the things we love, not set up trenches for war.

  4. This goes both ways, wouldn't you say? If I can't say I don't like something because someone else might like it then they can't say they like something because someone else might not? That doesn't seem very productive.

    Book reviews are a statement of opinion. When I write a review I am putting my opinion out there for others to see. What they do with that opinion, how much weight they decide to give it, is entirely up to them. The onus is on the reader to attach value to my opinions, not on me to insist that my opinion is inherently valuable.

    I will always, always do my best both to give my honest opinion, and to give my reasons for holding that opinion. Others are free to agree or to disagree with my opinions, but at least they will know that the opinion they are basing that agreement on is truly mine.

  5. (Hey, I found you from the NaNo forums!)

    I find reviews helpful if they tell me why they liked it or didn't like it. Sometimes I know instantly I'll like the book because someone says, 'I hated this book because...' and the because happens to be something I adore.

    If a review says something nasty with no back up, I dismiss it as if I hadn't read it. Tell me WHY and I'll benefit.

    I've also had the opposite, where someone will rave about a book and say they loved it for this reason and I'll know I wouldn't like it.

    As long as the reviewer is fair and not bashing just to bash, a negative review won't necessarily hurt the author.

    Cool post!

  6. @Mike Manz,

    I do agree with you on the fact that it isn't fair. You're right, it just isn't productive for people to assume or act on a thought that if one person dislikes it then another must by default, or that people are to like something if someone else does or doesn't. It's part human nature (to rebel against the norm or to fall into place and do what the crowd does) and part lack of thought.

    Reviews are fine, and like I said, they're great for the populace to find what caters to them and what isn't in their interest. It's just when, say a high powerful NYT reviewer puts a book through the meat grinder and then suddenly everyone who respects his opinion does it, too. The same thing goes when one person raves about a book and hundreds other follow to rave just because they can. Those reviews and the packing that goes with them, the "omg I love this book if you don't you're an idiot." idealizsm behind it is the failing factor.

    @Live Out Loud,

    Hi there! That's awesome you found me on the NaNo forums! I'd love to know- was it from the bloggers thread?

    Reviews with substance is great. It's like tearing into the perfect hot dog. You get the chili and cheese and bacon and mustard, and before you know it it's over and you've got something on your chin (or maybe that's just me.) It's when, like you said, someone says they hated a book for no real reason or rhyme that the bashing begins.

    Ironically, before I started my blog and covered it in an obscene lack of color, I was tearing books apart for anything because of reviews I had read online. Amanda Hocking's Switched series was one of the few indie-print books at the time I had been curious in but strayed away from because of how little people spoke of it initially. The thing that finally got me to read it was when I read from a friend that the story truly was good, it was the grammar and formatting that was chewing the book up. And to think, I almost missed out on a future favorite author and series because I almost gave into those people spamming comment sections with, "This book is lame, go read _____!"