Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do we really pay attention to reviews?

Or maybe a better question for what I'm thinking is when should we put our faith in them.

Mostly, I check out reviews after I've read a book. I'll peek on Amazon and see how many others thought that it was the best story since the last one that totally captured my imagination, or how many also thought "I paid money for this?"

Recently, I've used reviews to sort of rank books. Having grown up with movie critics that rarely like the flicks I adore, but rather praise the sort of films I can barely sit through, I only take the opinions of those who have proven they have similar taste. Yet, since joining Facebook, I've got a To Be Read list a mile high. A bunch of writers friended me, and I'm pathological in wanting to support them. Reviews help me to put books in their place from "OMG, gotta read that right now!" to "How bad can it be? I'll get to it eventually."

Lynn Flewelling's fantasy has earned a permanent place at the top of my list. It's only through a combination of wanting to reread the Night Runner series before picking up the last installment and having so very many books on hand that I stumbled across Homophobic Content in 'Shadows Return' before I formed my own opinion. As it was, I stood in a bookstore, novel in hand, frozen with doubt. In the end, I bought the new (to me, at least) Keri Arthur book and a debut novel that had a blurb by Patricia Briggs (if Patty likes it, who am I to doubt?).

That review really threw me! My first reaction was anger; how could she?! Then denial; surely the reviewer misread! I looked for other reviews and found only the unhelpful from "you/your books are so great! (on the author's blog) to "yay, you get to read about the characters you love again!" (because...that wasn't implied by this being the next book in the series?).

So how much should this one review affect me? Flewelling has given me six fantastic books in two great series...should I deny my reading pleasure based on one person's opinion? Should I ignore the opinion and perhaps set myself up for bitter disappointment?

What would you do? How much attention do you pay to reviews?


Anonymous said...

Its an interesting question. To be honest I tend to read a book and formulate my own thoughts about it. I have read books that I've loved only to read a review that calls the book a hack and a blatant rip off of books by authors x y or z who wrote it far better. The only point I have on that is that I had read some of those books listed and didn't think too much of that tale in the first place partly because the author had written it for the tech savvy people and I'd been left in the cold when a lot of letters kept popping up all over the place.

The point is, if an author have given you reading pleasure trust your own instinct. Yes the odd book will let you down but you became a fan of that author because they wrote the books you like so you can forgive the odd error in thier judgement. The point is to tell that author where you felt that they went wrong so that they can then tailor the writing in future to be careful around that error (providing enough fans have the same problem.)

Its helpful to the author, its a boon to the fans, any author who doesn't at least pay some attention to repetitive feedback really won't stay popular for long.

By all means get views from others that share a similar reading choice to yourself but at times you have to break out and go for what you want to read on your own. Its fun and at the end of the day its your own opinion that matters.

Julie said...

I don't actually read the amazon reviews about books. Especially since I have also grown up with movie critics that hate the movies I love and praise the movies I think are worthless. I don't trust critics. I do however have several friends who's opinions I trust and I usually add to my reading pile based on what they say.

I also tend to go on trends. If I liked the last book by the author, I'll probably read the next one. For instance LKH. I loved her first books, thru Obsidian Butterfly, and that kept me buying them until a few books ago when I decided enough was enough. I didn't let anyone else tell me how I should feel about it.

And sometimes I take a chance on a new author. I hemmed and hawed about Bitten for several months before I bought it, and well... not only have I gained a great series but several awesome friends because of it.

You know, I'm rambling. :) I'll stop now, but don't let one opinion, unless it's someone who you know and dearly value their opinion, keep you from reading something.

An Again said...

Falcata, Julie, thanks for your input on this.