Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On Book Reviews

I like reading book reviews, the good ones and especially the bad ones. I can extract a lot of useful information from them, on character and plot development, on readers’ expectations. I read them on Amazon, on GoodReads, and on other few sites that publish reviews on a regular basis.

Being written by people, reviews are subjective so they have to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the reviewer’s dislike or ignorance of a genre shouldn’t mean a bad mark for the book.

I mostly ignore the good reviews, especially when they are overly enthusiastic. Sometimes, they look partisan, as if written by friends to give a boost to the ratings. But even if they are sincere, too much praise feels kind of syrupy. When the praise, however, is backed by a thorough analysis then it becomes useful.

Of course, many times the bad reviews are prejudiced too and you can tell the reviewer hasn’t even read the book carefully. There are also the self-righteous reviewers who think they know everything about how somebody should behave, fall in love (I’m reading a lot of YA lately) and generally react to a given situation, on the principle that what they would or wouldn’t do is a universal rule. But people are extremely diverse and, although we all partake in the same human nature, we each might take a different bite out of it. If a character in a book annoys you because of how she behaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the author is a bad writer, maybe quite on the contrary. In real life, there are stupid people and intelligent people, cautious people and rash people, etc., etc. If we would all be the same, then where would the fun be?

For good or bad reviews, you have to know how to read in between the lines and, in the end, of course, form your own opinion. I love reading excerpts to get a taste of a book, and I have bought many books after doing that. I have also borrowed books from the local library and then bought them because I loved them so much I had to have them. There are books that I cannot put down and have to force myself to put them down, because if I don’t then my stay in their universe would be over too soon. And there are books (I can still count them on one hand’s fingers) that are simply not palatable to me and that I had to put down unfinished.

I know it is very difficult to write a useful book review and I admire those who can. I’ve tried it but I’m not gifted or patient enough to dissect on paper the whole justification behind a simple “I like it” or “I don’t like it.”

I can read, though, read, read, read. And this is a small sample of what I have piled up on my nightstand… (rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation)

It even makes for nice little almost-poem…

Midnight in Rosary

Hold me closer, necromancer
Die for me,
Our Lady of Darkness,
shatter me
across the Universe.