What Some People Are Saying: Book Reviews

Don’t you just love, get exasperated, sometimes get thrilled, even occasionally feel depressed at, the reviews you get for your beloved creation? You pause, take it in, and then, you tell yourself it is as much about the readers as it is about you. Or better yet, it is more about the readers than it is about you. At which point, you ought to relax and shrug it all off: Our diversity is what makes us interesting, our overt conflicts what make for engrossing reading.

But you can’t shrug it off, can you? Regardless of how you rationalize it. Because every author takes pride in her work. And every author has more than a touch of vanity in her. Why else do we feel compelled to publish? At least, partly because we believe our thoughts and fantasies, our triumphs, or our travails are interesting enough, important enough, entertaining enough, etc., etc. that people out there will spend money to read our creations.

Many authors live by reviews. And, yet, what does it all mean? In the marketplace, apparently a lot. Amazon uses them to select its featured books although no one seems to know what algorithms this seller uses. In any case, the conventional wisdom is a book needs a certain minimum number of reviews for amazon to bother to place it in its front pages. Some kindle-related ereader websites have similar policies and won’t feature a book, either, unless the average rating for it is at least 4/5 and the reviews total a given number.

As a writer or a reader, it helps to situate reviews where they belong: back of your frontal cortex, away from the seat of emotions (the amygdala?), and just where they may live or die at the sellers’ sites. Then, realize this: people are starting to look more critically at consumer reviews. To some, getting all great ratings (5/5) and great reviews is not only a bit suspicious—particularly when they come in sequence within a short period, not long after the book is published—they tend to come from a cheering squad. So says this article: The Ugly Truth About Consumer Book Reviews: Part One. Reviews are not helpful when neither the reader nor the writer gains insight about the basis or reason for the reviews. The article also illustrates why you should be suspicious of the lowest ratings (1/5) and reviews and those that are posted to serve an agenda, such as undermining a competition.

Having said all that, I am including here a sampling of, as yet, the few reviews of my book which I found both informative and helpful:

This one is after my own heart because I thought the reviewer understood what I was attempting to do. It is quite detailed, shows where the reviewer is coming from, and actually uses a practice that apparently many professional reviewers use—take a sampling either of three chapters or of so many words (Did you think they read the whole book? Yes, I did, too.):

First 7500 words blogspot:“If you want a deep, introspective, maybe even complex adventure of real life issues intercepting relationships, read this novel. If you want the one and only focus to be the characters slobbering over each other, look elsewhere. This novel is written in a tone that is rarely ever seen in our own time. It is a treat.”—Potential:5/5

And here are two very special ones, for me, because they are so personal and it seems I have given the readers some nice moments with the book—which, after all, is what my intent was for writing it:

“Very Good North and South Sequel”—Xenia on amazon: “My most favorite thing about the book is the love between John Thornton and Margaret Hale which is constant. It never faltered, not even once. That aspect, I think, is very important to the story and honors Elizabeth Gaskell.” Elsewhere though, Xenia does disagree with the treatment of a character: “I do wish though that in Margaret of The North that Hannah Thornton did not remain so mean spirited….”—4/5

“Wonderful!”—S. Marcelle on amazon: “Altogether, it was surprising how much I enjoyed it. It lacks one star because of something that I experienced from the original author that I did not experience here. Ms. Gaskell interwove into her story her beliefs about God without being preachy, or forced, and brought into North and South some amazing discussions regarding religion, faith, and life after death. This story seemed to capture everything but that.”—4/5

Here’s one definitely far from glowing but is well-balanced, given where the reviewer is coming from. I find it difficult to get anyone male to read this book—not my husband, not my son nor my nephews, not a male friend. So, in fact, I am grateful to David who I “friended” on goodreads.com after he wrote this well-considered review. Still, I will say this: Yes, David, love can last and even grow across the years. I know because I have seen it happen more than once.

“Living Happily Ever After”—David Lloyd on amazon: “While the sequel is fairly well written, I found that the method of telling the story through the eyes, and more specifically – through the minds of the characters, left me somewhat detached. Reflections ran on for a little too long and I found too much of the text repetitive.”—3/5

The book has yet to receive 1/5 or 2/5. But I am not crossing my fingers that it won’t happen and it’s early yet. I did get my husband to read and review it, posted here.

More recent reviews are found here.


2 thoughts on “What Some People Are Saying: Book Reviews

  1. I was browsing my Goodreads because I couldn’t sleep and just thought I’d pop in to say that I agree that people are definitely a lot more critical when they read reviews than new writers are believing.

    Whenever I buy something on Amazon (or indeed, choose a movie to watch) I go to the reviews and I read them. I LOOK for 2 and 3 star reviews and I actually expect them. I will read these and a sample of 4s and 5s to weight the good and the not so good. No writing is perfect or will appeal to ALL people. So I read reviews, looking for people who seem to value what I value. I tend to ignore 3 sentence reviews, though I DO encourage people to give a review for novels that lack them even if they only want to put a few sentences. Books without reviews, I just can’t seem to sink into buying.

    See, the synopsis is one thing. And certain things always interest me. Evil advisors, conniving wizards, assassin lords, revenge plots. But there are tons of stories with this stuff and honestly, most are not worth my time. I am more inclined to buy a book that is rated 2 stars from an obviously clueless or cruel person, than I am to buy a book without a review. What people say about novels interests me a great deal. All avid readers know that their favorite books are hated by some people. I love Dragonlance and mostly the DL core gets 4/5 stars. But DL first core has existed since the 80s and there are PLENTY of 1s and 2s to go around. I’ve read some and had fun doing so. Also different raters have different values that they give a “3.” Sometimes 3 means average, or even “good.” Sometimes 3 means godawful. And some people have this ridiculous rule where they NEVER give 5s. Sort of like my 12th grade English teacher NEVER gave 100s.

    If someone rates something a 1, I want to know why. If they’re a history professor reviewing a historical fiction, and I want something that is historically sound, then it’s an obvious pass. But if I just want a fun read then I am going to disregard that review because it doesn’t touch on my own interests. If someone gives a novel 5 stars but says the characters are cardboard and lack development, I am going to disregard this review, no matter how positive, because I am a sucker for characters and it makes me very sad when the characters are cardboard nothings.

    I understand of course, no new other, or independent author, wants to see anything less than a 4. It can suck. But I think something comforting is the fact that even the great GREATS of ages past, have 1 star ratings. Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, Candide. Books that are regarded very well have their share of 1 star ratings, and they’re not all from ignorant people who have not read the novel or from people who started off with a bad attitude. They’re from real people, who just didn’t like the books. Believe it or not, there are some people who dislike pizza.

    I can’t ever write two sentences and leave, can I E? Gosh XD

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