I generally don’t read reviews of books on Amazon and Goodreads until after I’ve read the book and written my own review. I used to not read them just because I hate when people don’t tag their reviews that contain spoilers, but now I have the added reason of not wanting what someone else thinks to influence my writing of a review. It’s not an issue in any case because after I read the book it’s not like I generally care what the other reviews are.
A few days ago while writing a review of Karen Miller’s Empress I couldn’t remember the spelling of a character name, and with the book in a box down in the basement I took the lazy way out and scanned some reviews on Amazon to see if someone mentioned him. What I read amazed me. It’s OK to not like a book, but if you truly hate a book as much as some of those people did perhaps reading some of the positive reviews might help so you can see what you’ve missed.
As I mentioned in my review, the entire premise of Empress is at the end you’re supposed to hate just about everyone in it. It’s the whole key to the series, and the number of people that didn’t understand that was shocking. Even if you didn’t read the other two books if you were going to spend the time to review the book and you hated it, spend some additional time to figure out what others saw that you didn’t. The number of people saying they hated the characters or couldn’t connect with them was fairly high, and yet because they didn’t know that’s how they were supposed to feel they rated the book low.
Another one I love is when a thriller by someone like Vince Flynn or Brad Thor gets reviews saying things like “there’s too much violence in the book” or “it seems like all (main character) does is kill people”. Well, umm, yeah. That’s the idea behind those books. They’re like movies, only written as novels. These are larger than life heroes that go after terrorists and crime kingpins, of course there’s going to be lots of killing. If you couldn’t tell that from the blurb on the back you’re probably not qualified to write the review in the first place.
One other thing I’ve seen, especially on Amazon, are people rating the book based on damaged received in the shipping process. Really? I mean, REALLY? What the heck does the author have to do with your book arriving at your house damaged? Go review Amazon for that and judge the book based on what the author wrote. Oh, and another one I loved that was sent to me recently about a book there was no chance I was going to read: a reviewer gave a low review based on the typeface the book was printed in. I’m guessing most authors have no control over that, so who in their right mind thinks that’s a legitimate reason for giving a bad review?
You don’t like a book, that’s fine. There are many books I didn’t like even after looking at what I may have missed in reading it. Books where I thought the writer just went off in the wrong direction, or were inconsistent in what their characters were doing. If asked about the book (or I’m writing a review), I’m specific about the plot points I disliked and why I disliked them. I don’t see an opinion of “I didn’t get it” as a good reason to write a bad review unless you take a few minutes to see what others got that you didn’t.