4 Reasons Why I Write Book Reviews

I know, it’s terribly unpopular for authors to write book reviews right now, particularly if the review isn’t favorable.

open old book, a rose in a vase and a feather
Except if you’re an author.

I’ve chosen to write a few reviews anyway, and here are four reasons why.

 

1. I Accept my Limitations

A no point am I going to claim to be an expert. I don’t assign stars, because I don’t feel qualified to do that. I will also not be like Gottlieb at the New York Times reviewing books I don’t love in a genre I don’t love.

I love romance novels, sci fiction and fantasy novels, and books with strong female leads. Because I love them, I feel like I try to give them all a fair shake within the confines of what one expects from the genre.

I don’t review horror books or thrillers or a slew of others because I, personally, don’t love them.

 

2. Validity of Review Process

If I only ever write good things in book reviews, you won’t trust me. My goal is to give a balance interpretation through the lens of my experience. Your interpretation could always vary.  For example, the book North of Need had a few triggers for me. The set-up for the story had the feel of a horror novel to me (being trapped in a snowstorm with a stranger who is much bigger and stronger). Others, didn’t find this triggering. If you didn’t, you might like it more than me.

fairbookreviewmeme
Emphasis on fair.

 

3.  I Learn Something When I Write Them

Sometimes it’s something about myself. Like, I have stranger danger even as an adult. Sometimes, I learn more about story structure.

I love Lisa Kleypas as a romance author. There’s a reason why she’s one of the top names in historical romance. Her characters actually have character (something you don’t always find in romance). She lets women be friends, and sisters be sisters. It’s not all convoluted jealousy that I see too often. Her steamy scenes are very good, and her descriptions are amazing without using tired cliches. Like I said, she’s one of the best. By reading her and studying what I like, I learn a little more. Both for my own work, but also what to look for when selecting a new book.

Same is true of books I don’t like. I can learn a lot about plot and character development by figuring out why I don’t like something. After reading Lisa Kleypas, picking up another author that had every woman jealous of every other woman really brought to light how much I dislike that.

 

4. I Never Post to Amazon

As a fellow author, I don’t post my reviews on Amazon. Partly, because this is against Amazon’s terms and conditions, but more because I don’t ever want a review to be taken as an “attack” against another author.

bad-book-review-meme
A reason to not give a bad review. Unless you’re a certain kind of romance writer.

Honestly, there are times I wish I could call some of the authors and tell them I like their work, but I’d love it if they could fix a few things. Do they want me to beta read for them?

Hubris, clearly, but in my opinion, book like the Queen of Swords could’ve been spectacular instead of just good with a bit of revision. This takes me back to Point 3. I learned a lot by reading Queen of Swords. More than I learned reading all of Lisa Kleypas’s books, probably because she makes it look so effortless.

 

How about you? Do you write book reviews on Amazon, knowing writers need them to succeed? Do you only ever write positive reviews?

When Hollywood Gets It Wrong

I recently read this post by Eric Goebelbecker, and he links to an article where Hollywood attacks the movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes.

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Too much truth here.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Rotten Tomatoes is an online site where they aggregate critic reviews and give a total rank. The NY Times article above goes into more detail as to how they choose who is and isn’t included in the reviews they aggregate, but it sounds to me like Rotten Tomatoes does a pretty good job. Especially as they try to include a more diverse group of reviews that the traditional middle-aged white male perspective.

Still, the whole things does reinforces the term “la la land” for Hollywood.

Because, rather than them taking a hard look at the movies they’re making and asking themselves why they’re flops, they’re blaming a rating agency for giving those who go to their site the truth as a wider array of critics, and eventually viewers themselves, sees it.

And this is what people want.

Rotten Tomatoes gets more than 13 million unique visitors every day.

If Hollywood were honest with themselves, they’d take a hard look at the competition. And I don’t mean just other movies.

They are competing with so many other forms of entertainment that they really have to bring their top game.

 

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Too much truth here, too.

Let’s face it, our choices are more expansive that ever:

  • Reading books
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Video Games – whether phone, console or PC
  • On Demand TV – Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc.
  • Whatever the heck it is millennials do on their phones

Many of these forms of entertainment are “free”. Once I pay for my Netflix subscription, I can watch what I want when I wish.

For my husband and I to go to the movies to see a single movie costs more than my monthly Netflix subscription. Add to that the cost of a babysitter, and the fact if I wait a few months, I can rent it or buy it for less than the cost of going to the theater, and we just don’t go. Especially as home theater systems and big screen TVs have become a whole lot more affordable.

Movie
Way too much truth.

And while Hollywood is bemoaning their “plight” with Rotten Tomatoes, HBO was laughing all the way to the bank as they cashed in on Game of Thrones.

So yes, people are watching “TV”, although the seventy-plus minute final episode of season 7 bordered on movie-length.

Yet, people were lining up to watch it. Waiting in eager anticipation. Talking about it all week before and after the episode. Building enough anticipation that the show has only gotten more popular, despite the gap of a year or more between seasons.

Yes, Game of Thrones has Drogon, and that’s hard to beat.

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But there’s a lot more to the show than Drogon. There’s a list of characters pages long that viewers have come to care about. Come to love. That we tune in to see what happens to them even they aren’t fire-breathing reptiles.

And yes, HBO spent a lot of money of those special effects. But it wasn’t all about special effects. How many of us were right there with Tyrion as he cursed Jamie for being an idiot as he charges Dany?

Perhaps if Hollywood could distill that and give it to us, they could make movies we want to see.

All in, I hope places like Rotten Tomatoes stick around. They give us what we want. If Hollywood would do the same, they wouldn’t have such an issue.

 

How about you? Do you go to movies? Ever used Rotten Tomatoes guides?

 

 

Online Reviews and Research

ScaryBook
How many stars you want?

I came across this article in the NY Times that, in short, says that online reviews really tell us nothing. Actually, less than nothing as independent research on the quality and reliability of products often contradicts the reviews.

Especially on places like Amazon.But not limited to it. It stretches across all reviews, from Yelp to Good Reads.

The article found certain recently released books were rated significantly higher than classics like Pride and Prejudice that have withstood the test of time. Some authors were a bit embarrassed or worried about their next work being as well received.

The researchers surmised about the biases in play, as well as people paying for reviews. There is some evidence that once a product starts to get good reviews, new reviewers are less likely to give bad reviews. Priming, which is a sales tool, also says if you can prep someone to want or like something, they are much more likely to to want or like something.

All of this does little to help those of us trying to decide what to buy. It does explain how some horrible books I’ve read lately have such high ratings.

For larger purchases, I will take a look to see if there are other reviews out there. For example, the Father’s Day gift for my husband I researched at a couple of different sites that concurred, including Popular Mechanics.

What I don’t know is how to use this information to find good books to read.