‘Reviewing’ is such a subjective business. You might recall I wrote a glowing review of Linnea Sinclair’s Hope’s Folly recently. Out of interest I went back and read all the other reviews on the book’s Amazon page. Most are 4 or 5 stars, but a few – aren’t. One person thought the book was far too long. Another objected to all the time spent on ‘feelings’. Somebody else thought the pace was slow, another thought the romance moved too fast. Some were disappointed that previous characters didn’t appear. And, of course, none of those opinions are right or wrong. Obi-wan Kenobi’s comment to Luke on Dagobah comes to mind. “So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”
All of this had me mulling on my own reviewing style. I always rate books at 4 or 5. Now, some people will think that’s – oh I’m not sure what. Something negative. Something suspicious. But it isn’t. You see, I don’t often finish a book. I think life’s too short (especially at my age) to waste time on reading something that doesn’t grab me. In that case, I don’t write a review. It wasn’t to my taste. Neither is liver, or tripe. So if I finish a book properly (as opposed to skim reading from where I lost interest to see if my judgement was correct – Dan Brown’s The da Vinci Code for instance) that’s an automatic 3 out of 5. If I was critiquing a story, I would list the points where I thought improvements might be made. If I know the author, I might do that anyway, via email. But I won’t write a review.
If I enjoyed the story with only a few reservations, the book will score a 4 and I will offer my opinion. If I loved it, the book scores 5.
Mind you, I’ve sometimes changed my perception. Jack McDevitt’s Slow Lightning comes to mind. I tried to read it a few times and gave up quickly. But then – and don’t ask me why – I persevered, and the novel has become a favourite. Here’s my review. Another example is Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. I LOVE Pratchett. But this book didn’t press my buttons the first time through (although I did finish it). When I read it again at another time, it was a better read than I remembered.
I guess I should add that by now I’ve acquired the necessary thick skin about my own writing. Somebody doesn’t like my work, that’s okay. No one can please everybody. Other people have a different philosophy about ‘reviewing’, and simply see it as a way of recording their reaction to however much they read. Loved it, great, okay, ordinary, diabolical. And that’s perfectly valid. If I followed that approach, I’d be writing a pile of reviews that said ‘failed to capture my interest, never got past chapter 3’. The sad thing is, I’d have to give it a score out of 5 – and that doesn’t work for me. Pity they don’t have DNF (did not finish) as a category. I wonder how many of those negative review on Fifty Shades of Grey were really DNFs?
What do you do about reviewing? I’d really like to know.