Monday, October 05, 2009

Reviews – what are they good for?

Vicki here on Monday with a question. What is the value of book reviews?

As regular readers of this blog will know I was very excited to receive a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for my forthcoming book, WINTER OF SECRETS. The reviewer, obviously a person of taste and sophistication, loved the book.

Another reviewer, at another publication which shall remain nameless, hated it. He or she complained of having to suffer through it. (The review was, IMHO, actually mean. Not just critical but unnecessarily mean. I wonder if I pushed this person off the slide in Grade 2 or something). Interestingly enough one of the things that caused the PW reviewer to gush, was the same thing that caused the nameless reviewer to gush in another way.

I then ask: what is the value of book reviews? Same question applies to movies and music etc. It is so subjective, is there any point? Should a review perhaps confine itself to a description of the plot, mood, setting so the reader can then decide if it’s the sort of book that appeals?

I’ve read plenty of books that got great reviews and thought they were absolute dreck. The one reviewer I always check is Margaret Cannon in the Globe and Mail, but now that I’m thinking of it, I realize that I never choose a book by whether or not Cannon likes it, I just decide if it sounds like my kind of book.

Do you have a reviewer you particuarly trust? Or not? There are a lot of review sites on the Internet right now, some of them very good. I wonder if they're more reliable because they're just one person who loves books talking about them without being paid to do so.

Book reviews certainly don’t seem to have much effect on how a book sells. The Globe and Mail review of The Lost Symbol said “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” when giving examples of particularly tortured dialogue. I can’t imagine Dan Brown is weeping into his cereal because he got a poor review. I popped over to Amazon to check out reviews of The Lost Symbol.

Dan currently has an average of 2 ½ stars (out of five). My earlier book, Valley of the Lost, has 4 ½ stars. Ha, Ha Dan Brown. By that reckoning more people should be reading my book than his.

Poisoned Pen Press has an early-reader method of going through their new author submissions. When I sent in Scare the Light Away, the MS was given to two people to read, as is the custom. I still remember the e-mail I got. One reader liked it a lot, the other was wishy-washy, and the acquisitions editor said that he preferred to take the positive and the MS would go to the next stage. Poisoned Pen, wisely, realizes that opinions are subjective.

Want to judge for yourself which reviewer was right? Let’s have a contest. I am giving away two ARCs of Winter of Secrets. The first chapter has been posted on my web page ( Send me an e-mail telling me what Constable Molly Smith’s radio call number is, and you will be eligible! Contest closes on Friday Oct. 9th. My e-mail address is Vicki at vickidelany dot com. (you know the drill)

1 comment:

RKCharron said...

I check reviews from book bloggers I have come to trust. Their reviews lean me towards liking it, but I don't buy a book, or not buy a book, based on their, or anyone's review or opinion. I use my own judgement.
Same with movies.
Thanks for the fun ARC contest,