On reviewing, or basically me ranting

-begin rant

I used to enjoy reviewing books. I really did. And now...not so much. It's HARD. I'm amazed at some of the reviewers I come across who can write so well and say exactly what worked and what didn't. Me...I have trouble with that. Well, mainly trouble with the so-so book. You know, those ones that were fun to read, but in the end are just mind candy. You know you don't plan to read it again, but it was still an enjoyable way to pass a couple hours. Drives me nuts trying to explain why I'd rec it if you're looking for a few hours of distraction, yet I still didn't think it warranted keeper shelf status.

I also get strongly annoyed at ebook authors who think that nothing less than a 4 out of 5 stars or the equivalent is a bad review. Can I like a book that got a 3 out of 5? Certainly. There are many series romances that I enjoyed reading that would most likely get rated this way. Hell, even a 2.5. It's just average, not fantastic, but still not excruciatingly bad.

I took a summer break from reviewing and now am getting back into it. But I also think that I've changed. My tastes have changed and what I will excuse in a book has changed. So we'll see how things go. Should be interesting. And well, if nothing else, I can stop completely and just review here. I really do like my little spot in the blogosphere and all the friends I've made.

-end rant


Angela James said...

I think that you explained the difficulty in reviewing for the "every day" reader.

Candy and Sarah at SB do a good job of breaking down the book, so do HelenKay and Wendy. But most readers don't need an in depth character, plot, and craft analysis. They want an honest opinion and a little bit about why it worked or didn't. That's hard to do!

If you notice on my blog, I'll often say I didn't love a book, but I'd recommend it for one reason or another. And I know that what doesn't work for me, often works for other people- the first Kim Harrison book is a prime example of that. I'm one of three people I know of who didn't like that book and thought it had a lot of weak spots.

But you're exactly right, there are a TON of books that I liked, thought were good fun, but aren't keepers. And I'd still recommend them. I just did that with Mafia Chic when Jay asked me about it.

And you're also right about ebook authors needing a four star or higher- and forget their rabid fangirls if the author gets a three. A three is still a good rating!! I just heard of an author on the EC chat list talking about contacting a reviewer who gave her a three because she just didn't understand why when everyone else gave her a four or higher. Puh-lease.

And I'm really sorry to have hogged your comments but as you can see, I agree with you :)

Nicole said...

Thanks. And hey, you're not hogging my comments. :-)

And it's the ebook authors who drive me the battiest. So much so that I dont review ebooks anymore. On my blog I will, but not anywhere else. I even got a bit mad at one author whose first book I enjoyed a lot and even have a quote from my review of it in the print copy. She was one who insisted that anything less than 4 stars for an ebook meant it was crap. Heh...makes me not want to read the books of hers that I already have.

And Shelby Reed complaining abuot her B review at AAR? Ugh.

Oh, did you hear about the NCAA banning Native American logos from championship events postseason? Should be interesting since I'm pretty sure The Ralph is hosting some. And there are a helluva lot of Sioux logos in that place. :-)

Jay said...

Nicole, thats exactly why I dont review books. I'm never able to get past the Hated it/Loved it parts to intellegently verbalize what I dis/liked about a book. Also I dont want to feel pressured to read a book right away or finish it if I'm not enjoying just for the sake of a timely review. To me, that's too much like work :)

Wouldnt mind the free books though... ;)

sybil said...

Scoring... rating... whatever you want to call it is the hardest part for me with reviewing for AAR.

On my blog I generally don't rate. I tell what I liked, what I didn't and the general idea if I liked it or not. Also known as rambling on at length.

It is funny because this is a topic I have started a post on. Of course it might not ever see the light of day, as many of my posts don't ;).

As a reader I don't discount any grade when I read a review. It is more the summary that sells it to me. As a reviewer I give a grade of a C- or higher to a book I liked.

Alyssa said...

You've hit on the challenges of being a reviewer. Some authors don't like anything but a 5/5 or whatever the highest rating is. As you've pointed out, I've read and enjoyed many books I consider 3/5.

I also go in stages, when I sometimes enjoy reviewing quite a bit and other times don't enjoy it as much. Right now, I'm having a hard time getting back into the groove after I stopped writing reviews due to the heat then because I was on vacation. I need to write a few this week.

I don't feel as pressured to explain my rating at my blog as I do in reviews, although I try to give some indication of why I like (or don't like) the book.

Blogs themselves aren't entirely safe (LOL!). I had a bunch of e-book authors visit mine after I rated a book low. It turned out OK; I gave e-books (and even this particular author) another try. I've even blogged about some e-book reads since then. But I have to admit that I feel some reluctance to do so.

The Romance Reader (which I review for) doesn't review e-books at this point, so I don't have to worry about it there. But I think some romance authors still expect positive reviews, and e-book authors feel more defensive because some readers still question the quality. These are both generalizations, of course, and there will always be exceptions.

Geez, now I've written a book in response to this post. You're welcome to review my comments if you like. LOL!


Rex Stultorum said...

Hey, Nicole!

I just stumbled upon your blog and bookmarked it. With all of the "rant blogs" out there, I find myself more attracted to "thoughtful blogs"; so when I read your "rant," and saw you being THOUGHTFUL as well, well ... THAT's a KEEPER, in my humble opinion.

Perhaps the way to "set up" for the kind of review that you're having trouble with is to decide first, in your own mind, what makes a GREAT piece of literature -- the NICOLE guide to greatness! -- and then give your readers an account of how any reviewed book stacks up on each of the "dimensions" involved in the NICOLE standard. The dimensions involved in the standard might be divided into elements that separate the insight, innovation, and depth of the work from the less "significant" features which nevertheless "keep the pages turning." That should leave your reader able to judge whether it's best classified as a "borrow" or as a "buy."

Hey, I don't know if I've ever read any book that would qualify as a modern "romance." Perhaps some of the Thomas Hardy or the Somerset Maugham I've read would qualify as "classic" romance. So tell me, Nicole, if I were going to read ONE AND ONLY ONE modern romance novel, and you were going to select it for me, what would it be? (If you've already named your TOPS, please forgive the off-the-cuff question: I've not yet had a chance to peruse your blog's archives.)

Angela James said...

Wow Nicole. that's a tough question he asked. I can't wait to see your answer!

BJ Deese said...

Nicole, I have been feeling this way too. Plus, I have so many books in the tbr that I want to read but don't have time b/c of review books. That's kind of sad.

Bam said...

I always have trouble reviewing books I like. I never know what to say about them except "hey, that rocked" and then I don't feel very eloquent.

Karen Scott said...

Nicole, I realise that I'm about a month late for this blog, but in my opinion, the reason that e-book authors get suicidal when they get 4 stars or below is because most e-book reviewers tend to be overly generous (in my opinion)when grading books, so most authors know that a three grade means that more often than not, the e-book reviewer probably hated the book, but wasn't bold enough to give it a lower grade.

Just my two cents, and you know, I could be wrong *g*

Nicole said...

Karen, I do completely agree with you on that and it does bother me.

Shelby Reed said...

Nicole, love your blog. And I follow Karen's too. You guys broach some great and brave topics.

This is one of those, because everyone made good points on both sides. I certainly have been guilty of being one of those touchy e-pubbed authors, and it's largely due to the constant nagging sense that I have to prove my work as quality because it's e-pubbed. But frankly I've grown some good armor, and I appreciate any constructive comment made about my work, good or bad. Reviewers are also readers, you know? I listen to what they say because of this, and try to remember that it's just one person's opinion, even when the review is glowing.

Regarding your mention about the AAR thing, in my defense I'd like to clarify that I hadn't thought of my posting on the "B-" I received at AAR as a "complaint," but an acknowledgement that I understood what the reviewer was saying and appreciated that her criticisms were offered in a constructive instead of a harsh way. I did say that the grade indicated she found my book somewhat mediocre, because I'm a school teacher and a "B-" or "C" means exactly that: middle of the road. And I wanted to know what to do to make my next story outstanding. I feel the reviewer did a good job of clearly explaining what made the book middle-of-the-road. I didn't understand that my choice of words would be perceived as a complaint.

And man, did that board moderator set me straight. LOLOL! I wasn't really sure why until now. She thought I was bitching and moaning. But truly, I wasn't. I never even thought about it again until I saw her response.

Anyway, for now I'm done with reviewers and writing and all that fun stuff. I'm back to teaching second graders and taking a break from the volatile world of writers. And I won't be posting on any other review boards, that for sure. :)
Shelby Reed