As always the opinions put forth in this post are mine and mine alone.
Reviews that attack a book based on a reader’s personal preferences make me a little crazy. It is fine to have preferences. We ALL have preferences. And while it’s inevitable those preferences will be reflected in our reviews, they shouldn’t form the entire basis of a critique.
“Although [name redacted]’s writing style is engaging and original, I found the story to be overly gruesome and the turn of events unbelievable.” ONE ★ on Amazon.
Seriously? This reviewer gave the lowest possible rating to a book s/he found written in an engaging and and original style? Anyone else have an issue with this?
If one looks at Amazon reviews for Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer winning The Goldfinch, a large proportion of the ONE ★ reviews are based on the opinion the book is “too long.”
Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I don’t consider “too long” as justification for a ONE ★ rating. Sure, ding the book a star, maybe even two, for being overwritten, but to demote it to one star because the reader found it wordy? (I didn’t find it overwritten, by the way. I enjoyed the book.)
Reviews shouldn’t presume to tell the writer what he or she should or shouldn’t write. In fact, the whole idea of crowd-sourcing books leaves me slightly nauseated. If a reader doesn’t like sex, profanity, overly-long books, or dark tales, that is absolutely their right, but reviews shouldn’t be used solely as a platform to voice prejudices.
I think Stephen King is a fine storyteller, but I personally don’t enjoy the carnage in much of his work. Do I turn around and slam his books because of the gore? I do not. Mr. King, like all writers, deserves the freedom to write whatever he chooses. Just as the reader has the freedom to skip certain works or (as I do) skim passages that are uncomfortable.
A good review addresses the story and how the story is told. Does it draw the reader in? Are the characters well drawn? Is the plot original? The pacing good? The voice strong? The dialogue realistic? The writing compelling? Are the descriptions evocative? The setting realistic? Did the story hold the reviewer’s attention? Why or why not? Did the ending satisfy? And if it’s part of a set, did the effort stand up to other books in the series. These are the types of questions a review should answer.
If a book has a particular religious slant, or there’s coarse language, explicit sex, or animals or children are harmed, by all means, alert readers. But reviewers, please don’t use book reviews as a forum to air your personal biases. It is so not cool.