These past few weeks I have read some rather unpleasant comments about book reviewers. Blogger ‘bashing’ seems popular just now.
An example of this blogger bashing:
When someone – anyone – calls me or my fellow book bloggers dishonest – then steam starts to come out of my ears.
When I give a book 5 stars it is because I love it. I’ve recently given a book 2 stars because it wasn’t to my taste. Everyone’s taste is different. I get most of my books from NetGalley, Edelweiss or directly from publishers. They do not cost me anything, yet I still rate them ALL as according to my enjoyment of them. Why would anyone post anything this hurtful. I do not lie when reviewing books! I do try to be kind, as I know authors invest a lot of emotion, time, and hard work writing. Just because I don’t care for it, there is probably someone out there who does. I try to find something positive to say even when I only give it 2 stars… Does that make me dishonest? If I give a book 5 stars and I LOVE it, does that mean I’m dishonest because I didn’t pay for the book?
I posted the above comment to a Facebook group and this is one response I got:
“you should try to critique the work without reference to personal taste”.
I think this is impossible. Complete objectivity is a myth. A reader brings his/herself to the book in question. They bring their own personal experiences and history to the reading experience. That influences how they ‘relate’ to the book they are reading. All reviewers, all people, have a unique perspective on all things – including books. If it takes me 5 days to read a 300 page book, it obviously was a struggle for me to read it. I will not be giving that book as high a rating as one which I read in one day, or one sitting. Obviously I enjoyed the book that held my attention more than the one I struggled with. Thus, my personal taste directly influenced my rating.
The MOST compelling thing that influences my ‘personal taste’ is characterization. If I can connect in some level to the characters, then my reading experience will have a much more positive outcome, thus my rating will be higher. If, in my personal opinion, the book was written in an amateurish way, it will get a lower rating. I’ve read a lot of high quality fiction and I can now recognize superior writing when I read it.
I would say that I get about 90% of the books I read for free. I DO NOT feel that I have to compromise my opinions when reviewing these books. If the publisher or author does not want to give me any more free books, then that is their choice. I am grateful that that has not happened to me, regardless of the stars – or lack thereof, I have given their book.
Do you think you can honestly review a book without the influence of your ‘personal taste’? I’d love to hear your opinion.
On a more positive note…
Thankfully there are some great authors and bloggers out there who appreciate our efforts. Barbara Copperthwaite for one. She writes:
I know there has been some blogger bashing going on recently, and some of you are feeling battered and bruised, and wondering why on earth you should carry on. But I just wanted to take a moment to tell you the difference connecting with you has made to me as an author.
Connecting with the blogger community has given me a place of friendship when writing gets lonely; a place where I know my work will be judged fairly (whether positively or negatively); somewhere where I can share my passion for reading so that we can engage in constructive discussions about our love of books. You have given me confidence in my writing, which has helped push me on when I’ve doubted myself. And your comments have also helped to improve my work. I’m a better writer because of you lovely bloggers.
The blogging community is passionate, exceptionally hard-working, honest, and is so very appreciated. Your praise has to be earned, and your criticisms are measured, constructive and useful. You make such a huge difference to authors every single day. Please believe that for every person who has something unfounded and negative to say about you, there are a thousand others who KNOW the truth and are singing your praises.For most of us it is a labor of love, with no financial compensation.
On behalf of myself AND my fellow book bloggers, I want to personally thank Barbara for her defense of book reviewers/bloggers.
I urge you to read this post which states:
“The best book reviews are the ones that avoid the pitfall of objectivity because in reviewing books there no such thing.”
“Books are not a one size fits all. The readers own preferences and expectations must be taken into account when reading a review.”
“A good reviewer is honest as to his preferences. He is clear in his assessments and pointed in his explanations for them. He doesn’t shy away from making his opinions known or making it known that they are but opinions.”
I am in full agreement with this!
A fellow book blogger, Jenny in Neverland wrote:
An individual book review may not change the world or anyone’s writing career but it is an important part of the much more grander puzzle.
One tiny little book review can lead to another blogger buying the book and leaving a review. Who then recommends the book to their mum. Who then reads it and recommends it to a work colleague. You see where I’m going with this?
The butterfly effect.
So whether you’re a newbie book blogger or a more experienced book blogger, a professional book reviewer or you just leave a quick review on Amazon every so often, your reviews matter. They shape the literary world, one word at a time.
Those who spend countless hours reading and reviewing books for NO compensation other than book love know this. Spread the book love… one book, and one BLOG post at a time.