Reviewing the reviews

Today I thought I’d talk about book reviews. There are two schools of thought about reviews:

  1. They don’t matter.
  2. They do matter.

Similarly, writers are advised to:

  1. Comb through your reviews for quotable quotes.
  2. Never, ever read your reviews. That way lies madness.

So today I want to share some of my finest review hours (of different books, if you’re wondering. I don’t think I’ve yet written the book that could elicit all of the following responses):

This book was very vulgar! Pornography is not my thing. The sex acts were very explicit and embarrassing. I thought I Was reading something historical. This was historical to the point of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The “relations” include scenes involving a corpse which is at best in bad taste and at worst borders on the necrophiliac.

… the worst character — ever. I hope she gets crotch rot. And dies.

…a thowback [sic] the vintage sleaze pulps of the 1960’s of which I am an avid collector.

Moral Note: Above, and heck, and “b” word in reference to breeding.

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that if someone hates a book they’re going to more readily write a review than someone who loved it, or even just sorta liked it. For one thing, it’s easier. It provides catharsis for wasted money or dashed hopes. I’ve just read two wonderful books about the Borgias by Kate Quinn, and all I can do is flap my mouth and wave my hands in inarticulate admiration, wish I could do what she does, and then feel guilty about not going further with it. (Sorry, Kate.)

I will add that there’s only one thing I find truly offensive in a review (rather than feeling mystified), and that’s a reviewer who spells Austen Austin. She’s not a town in Texas. Austen. Write 100 times….

Do reviews influence you when you buy books? Do you review the books you read? And if you’re a writer, what’s the worst or most bizarre review you’ve ever received?

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10 Responses to Reviewing the reviews

  1. Isobel Carr says:

    Book reviews can influence me. Today I downloaded a sample from KJ Charles because of a review Sunita posted on Dear Author.

    I think the most bizarre review I ever got was from a supposedly reputable blog site that said all my historical details were anachronistic, but the only thing she quoted was my heroine coming “downstairs from the first floor” (which as most of you know, is correct if you’re in England where they number their floors differently than in the States).

  2. Elena Greene says:

    Janet, love those examples!

    I’m more influenced by friends’ recommendations than book reviews. As for reviews of my own books, I am torn between checking my reviews for quotable stuff and just avoiding the whole mess. When I’m in the throes of fresh writing, it can mess with my head.

    Here’s the funniest reader mail I ever received (hopefully that counts). It began with clip art of a roaring lion.

    My Lion roars his disgust, as to (sic) I after wading thru page after page of explicit sex in Saving Lord Verwood which I just finished. Yuk!

    You are an excellent writer and the plot was good keeping one’s interest. I know explicit sex (leaving nothing to the imagination) seems to be the in thing. Surely with your writing ability you do not need to pander to or wallow in the antics that go on in the bedroom. Hopefully the trend will turn again toward decency.

    With kindest thoughts I remain a Regency reader.

    (name excluded)

    P.S. Would you really want your young daughters to read such trash?

  3. ki pha says:

    Reviews do sometime influence my purchasing of a book. But most of the times I try not to read them and just take in what I get from the synopsis to do the picking and choosing for me. Or if I have automatic must buy authors then it doesn’t matter.

    But being a reviewer is challenging. I do try to review every book I read but then sometime I just can’t keep up with it. It’s mighty difficult coming up with new ways to say how much you loved a book. And of course I don’t write reviews for a book if I can’t give them a 3 star. Sorry.

  4. My first book; my favorite review (I have corrected the typos):

    This book was hard to finish. Charlotte Fallon is not the sharpest tool in the shed and like the other female characters in the book she is mentally unbalanced. I mean seriously what sane woman snoozes through the best sex in her life, steals Mr. Stud’s valuable artwork, and smashes an entire bedroom of cupid statues against the garden wall? If I were Bayard I would have taken her on safari to Africa and had her shot with an elephant tranquilizer dart.

  5. LenoreJ says:

    I go for books with both very good and very bad reviews. Only two things in a review stop me in my tracks: plot & character “meh”, and comments that indicate poor writing skills or lousy editing.
    One or two errors per novel is not great, but we are all human. But nothing kills romance for me when I’m forced to bring out my mental blue pencil!

  6. LenoreJ says:

    Nothing kills romance MORE for me….See, even this comment needs an editor!

  7. I think it’s a tie between me, Elena, and Maggie with Isobel coming in a close second. Thanks for your comments, everyone!


  8. I am perverse enough to read books with reviews like those simply because I have a rather determined “Oh really? Let me see!” streak. And as I have read and loved all of your books, Janet, I guess I am a vulgar resident of either Sodom or Gomorrah!

  9. Alas, I do let reviews sway me when buying a book. I never thought about how more likely disappointed readers would be to vent their vitriolic tempers in some book review. I shall have to take that into account next time.

    I’ve had good reviews and not-so-good reviews. I love reading the good reviews. I read the bad reviews once, and then dismiss them. Unless I’m getting a whole lot of bad reviews that are saying the same thing, I chalk it up to one reader’s opinion.

    Had a novella released last week. Wondering when the first review’s gonna be posted, and is it going to be good? (maybe I should tell my friends to post good ones 😉 )

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